As Evelyn Diederich becomes immersed in managing the family farm in Kansas, she’s one of the rapidly increasing number of women involved in farm management.
“I’ve been playing more of an active role in our farm now that our kids are older, and I want to learn how to do an even better job with our bookkeeping,” shared Diederich, who helps her husband run their Greenleaf, Kan., farm. “We have a cow/calf operation, and we do soybeans, corn, and we have horses too,” she added.
Diederich is one of nearly 20 Kansas farm women who eagerly signed-up for the “Kansas Annie” series of six seminars gearing timely agricultural topics toward women. The program is provided by the River Valley District of Kansas State University’s Research and Extension Service in North Central Kansas.
The “Annie” project evolved from the realized dream of a woman named Annie (formally known as Annette Kohlhagen,) who grew up in a small farm community. Annie, who was excited to marry a farmer in 1950, enthusiastically spent the rest of her life learning how to develop business savvy. Annie was determined to be a proven business partner with her husband on their farm.
Impressively, the number of women running the daily farm business management has risen dramatically across the United States over the past decade.
“Farms with female principal operators increased 30 percent nationwide from 2002 to 2007,” relayed Emily Allen, Farm Loan Manager with the Farm Service Agency, Washington, Kan. Allen was one of three speakers providing information on FSA programs and the value of keeping farm records, during the seminar February 12, held at the Senior Center in the small Washington County town of Clifton, Kan. “Many may not realize that the Farm Service Agency offers various farm loan programs. Besides loans, we assist eligible farmers, ranchers and others with loan guarantees and business planning,” said Allen. “It’s important for women to have the most benefit from the FSA. We’re here to support family farms in an agriculture economy,” she added.
To maintain and grow a healthy farm for the future, it’s vital to know your numbers and use your numbers. That was the key message from speaker, Kevin Herbel, Administrator of the Kansas Farm Management Association, which is part of Kansas State University’s Department of Agriculture Economics.
“Good records are one of the keys to your farm operation’s success. Records can provide the foundation for decision making. With your record keeping, identify and write down your goals and objectives,” advised Herbel, noting “Anything not written down is easily forgotten.” He said each farm manager should use the type of record system they are comfortable with and that provides them the information they need. Herbel also suggested utilizing computer software for record keeping, noting it can improve the ability to summarize information and get reports and analysis.
Another of Herbel’s recommendations is the use of accrual accounting. An accrual income statement puts together cash income and expenses along with balance sheet information such as inventory, prepaid items and accounts due.
“While many Kansas farms operate on a cash basis for income tax purposes, accrual accounting will allow you to more accurately measure your operation’s profitability,” said Herbel. “The net income on a Schedule F doesn’t necessarily represent a farm’s true net income. Also, there are many adjustments based on inventories, accounts due or pre-paid items that need to be accounted for. An accrual income statement, which is essential for financial analysis and business management purposes, will make these adjustments,” shared Herbel.
He advised the audience that there are various computer programs, but said Quick Books and FarmBooks have the ability to do reports on an accrual basis.
The women also learned the latest information on the various loan programs, from another presenter at the seminar.
“I like the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program (DCP.) More than 95 percent of farm producers participate in this program, because of direct payments,” said Rob Larkin, Director of the Farm Service Agency in Washington, Kan. “Payments use base acres and payment yields established for the farm. These payments are only issued if the effective price of the commodity is below the target price,” stated Larkin. The 2013 sign-up goes from February 19 through August 2, 2013.
The Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) is another program that’s tops on Larkin’s list. He clarified it’s not a replacement for crop insurance, but rather, is a supplement which provides benefits for farm revenue losses on crops from natural disasters.
“If producers feel they had crop losses in 2011, they can look into that program,” Larkin advised.
After listening intently, several of the farm women told the Fence Post, that they enjoyed learning as a group, and benefitted from participating in the seminar activities, including entering farm statistics together in the Farm Account Book.
“I do the records on our farm, so this helps,” said newlywed Rachel Eickman, who, along with her husband, have an irrigated, diversified farm in Chester, Neb., and produce corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat and cattle. “I’ll also start checking out some of the websites we learned about tonight, and use spreadsheets differently now,” Eickman said. Her mother-in-law Kandy Eickman, who is attending the ‘Annie’ series with Rachel, also appreciated the seminar.
“Anytime you go to these meetings and interact with farm women, you learn new ways of doing things,” said Kandy, whose husband also farms corn, soybeans and wheat, and has feedlot cattle.
The large Kansas Farm Account Book appealed to many of the farm women.
“This book made it easier for me to transfer all my information over to the computer,” said Merry Roop, a farm wife from Washington, Kan., who has been responsible for keeping the family farm records for 33 years. Roop and her husband raise milo, corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and have a cow/calf herd. “Many moons ago, this was actually the only book we used for 10 years, before we finally spent $5,000 and bought a computer,” explained Roop.
The Kansas Farm Account Book is available at every county extension office across Kansas. Extension specialists emphasized the importance of compiling detailed records, and keeping-up with it routinely, as well as comparing records to the bank statement.
“There are various levels of involvement in keeping farm records for these women here. Just doing it manually-is a great way of getting it in your mind, as to where the income and expenses are categorized in a computer system,” suggested Robin Slattery, River Valley Extension District-Livestock Agent.
All of the women attending the seminar were thirsty for knowledge and appreciated the offerings in the Farm Account Book, including ledger rows for receipts, expenses, cash flow and inventories, as well as a balance sheet and income statement, and crop and livestock production information.
“When we got married, I handed my husband the book, and told him that this is what we’re going to use,” Rose Ann Zach of Morrowville, Kan., chuckled good-naturedly. The Zach’s have a cow/calf operation and farm grains. “I like that this book has sheets in the back for analysis, and I’m refreshing myself on all this, although my husband is meticulous about doing the records, so he will continue to do it,” Zach smiled.
The question loomed; ‘What will you gain from Annie’s project?’ In addition to finding answers and growing business skills, farm women are sowing seeds of support and friendship.
“I will eventually use these record books,” said Sandie Hood of Washington, Kan. “My brother Jim and I have a cow/calf herd and farm milo, corn, wheat, soybeans and hay. But, once our stepmother passes, the farm will be left to us five kids, and my brother hopes we’ll all get involved,” added Hood.
“Well, we also farm corn, milo, soybeans, wheat and have an Angus cow/calf operation, but since we don’t have employees, we didn’t need QuickBooks since it has the payroll and invoice functions,” Lydia Hiesterman of Washington, Kan., shared with others at her table. “But it’s important to keep good records, because it’s hard to catch up when you get so far behind.” ❖