Farm Business Money is Not Your Personal Money

Farm Business Money is Not Your Personal Money

Farming is a unique blend of passion and practicality. The land is in your blood, but to keep the legacy alive, you need the business savvy of any entrepreneur. A cornerstone of that savvy is understanding the rigid line between the money you earn and the money your farm earns. Tempted to treat them as the same? Here's why that's a path to trouble and how to do things the right way.

The Hidden Costs of "Borrowing" from the Farm

The Illusion of Profit:

Let's say you sell a good head of cattle and the bank account looks healthy. That new pair of boots or a weekend getaway seem harmless, right? The danger is that you lose sight of what that money needs to do. Seed, feed, equipment repairs – a farm has constant recurring costs that eat into yesterday's profits. Without clear separation, it's too easy to assume the cash-on-hand represents what you can spend, not what you need to spend.

The Taxman Cometh:

Come tax season, the mess gets real. The new water pump was a necessary expense, but where's the receipt? It's buried amongst online impulse purchases and restaurant bills. Not only are you leaving money on the table due to missed deductions, but sloppy records open you up to potential audits – a stressful situation nobody needs.

Growth Gets Stunted:

Think bigger. Do you dream of more land, a newer combine, or diversifying into a profitable side-hustle on the farm? Every dollar diverted to personal use is a dollar unavailable for investment. You're not only jeopardizing your current operation but hamstringing your future potential.

When Disaster Strikes:

Farming brings inherent risk – bad weather, market fluctuations, an animal health issue. When crisis hits, having a clear separation between business and personal can be a lifesaver. If business finances are co-mingled with your family's security net, the disaster could wipe out your home and savings along with the season's harvest.

Safeguarding Your Business and Your Future: Practical Steps

The Two-Account System:

At minimum, you need a designated business checking account and a business savings account. Income goes in, farm expenses come out, and there's no blurring of the lines.

Employee #1 – Yourself:

Even if you do most of the labor, your farm deserves your sweat equity. Pay yourself a consistent, fair-market wage. It's a mental shift – that farm money isn't just sitting there; it's paying you for the job you do.

The Business Credit Line:

While it might take time to qualify, a business credit card is invaluable. It streamlines expense tracking, isolates those costs, and helps you build up that all-important business credit rating.

Embrace the Spreadsheet (Or the Software):

Whether it's an app or a simple spreadsheet, track income and expenses religiously. This isn't just about taxes; it's about knowing, on any given day, the real financial health of your farm.

Don't Let Good Times Trick You

It's especially tempting after a profitable year to indulge a bit. That's understandable! But remember, farming is cyclical. Today's extra needs to carry you through the lean times that inevitably come. Think of business money as untouchable except for business needs.

The Long Game Pays Off

A farm is more than a job; it's a legacy for future generations. Treating your business finances with respect isn't just about this season; it's about safeguarding that long-term future, weathering the unavoidable hard times, and turning your hard work into a lasting family business that thrives.



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