When you think of farming, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it's an image of a sunny summer day, blue skies and a farmer on a tractor working away...
In most cases, that's not too far off—for the warmer months, that is. But just because the winter arrives, it doesn't mean farmers are at home by the fireplace with their feet up. The work on a farm never stops, regardless of the season.
If you're curious about what farmers do in the winter, we've got you covered with a handful of the many tasks they take care of when it's chilly out.
The Business of Farming
There's a lot more to farming than growing food and raising animals—it's a business. That means each year farmers have to dedicate a lot of time and energy into:
Looking at their finances: They check their books for profits and losses, prepare tax documents and make adjustments for the coming year.
Maintenence: A lot of heavy equipment is vital to keeping a farm running, so maintenance and upkeep are often completed during the off-season.
Reviewing documents: Many farmers lease land, so checking the terms of the lease is critical each year; they also check on insurance policies to ensure they're up to date.
Planning: There's quite a bit of planning and strategy that goes into each growing season, including buying seeds, crop rotation and planning plantings.
National and regional farm trade shows are often held during the winter. Farmers go to these events to learn about new technology and equipment, and to chat with other farmers.
As social media has become essential, many small farmers use this time to focus on growing their web presence. The winter provides a perfect opportunity to update their website, create more blog content and schedule content for the coming year.
Preparing the Fields
Rest assured, farmers aren't stuck in their offices all winter—they do spend time outside. However, the days typically aren't as long as they are during the planting, growing and harvesting seasons.
On a farm, there's always some upkeep required. Many farmers spend the off-season checking their fields. They look at fencing and other outbuildings such as barns and storage silos for damage and then make repairs. Some continue growing, though it's usually at a lighter level. Hearty winter crops such as kale, onions and leeks can help bring in additional income.
Depending on the type of farm, winter is a time of transportation. Farmers that harvest a lot of grain, for instance, might use this time to transport their inventory to processing plants. This helps create new space for the more recently harvested grain or crops.
Taking Care of Livestock
For livestock farmers, such as dairy or cattle farmers, the winter months don't change much of their daily work schedule. Your local dairy farmer is always up early monitoring the milking process, whether it's July or February. Depending on the type of livestock, farmers will bring their animals into more protected shelters for the winter.
Livestock is fed and cared for daily. Some have different dietary needs during the winter months, so farmers will adjust the feed to ensure the animals are as healthy as possible.
Water is another important resource. Some farms rely on natural water sources to feed livestock in the summer, but they might freeze over in the winter. Additional water sources or de-icing systems need to be in place and checked frequently as the cold weather arrives.
Clearly, farmers work hard throughout the year, and the winter is no exception to the rule.