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Features Future planning
Editorial: Embracing the chill

December 24, 2023  By Derek Clouthier

It’s that time of year – Christmas is right around the corner, and, for the most part, farmers are looking ahead to spring and how to best prepare for the next growing season.

For those not in the industry, it might seem like winter is a downtime for farmers, but growers know better. Late fall and early winter are good times to get out in the field and perform some soil testing to help make decisions about fertilizer use. Mapping out a crop rotation plan can improve soil health, prevent nutrient depletion and combat diseases and pests. Removing any late-season weeds is another key to making life much easier come spring, and it reduces the weed seed bank for the next growing season. Other items on a farmer’s checklist this time of year include equipment maintenance, drainage, residue management, as well as pest and disease management. Learning from this year’s experiences helps in developing plans for weed prevention, seed and planting dates and preparing for whatever Mother Nature might bring in 2024. 

As important as all these practical tasks are to set up success for a farmer each year, they are not the only things that require attention. A solid financial plan, which includes government subsidies, programs and insurance, is equally important. 


Several programs are available to provide financial support to farmers, such as AgriStability, AgriInvest and AgriInsurance. Given the unpredictability of the weather in Western Canada this past year, especially with heat and drought, taking advantage of every financial aid opportunity will be crucial for many farmers in the west.

 There’s also the Canada-Alberta Job Grant to help farmers pay for the training and development of their employees. And for those looking to adopt new technologies and research practices, there are programs like Results Driven Agriculture Research’s Accelerating Agriculture Innovations 2.0, the University of Calgary’s Agriculture Funding Consortium and Canada’s AgriInnovate Program.

 All of these programs are essential to many farmers, as establishing a yearly budget is not only challenging in good times but can be nearly impossible during times of hardship.

 Whether it’s seeds and planting materials, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, or equipment and labour costs, fuel, property taxes, loan payments, insurance, or marketing costs, and, of course, personal living expenses, making ends meet can seem like an insurmountable mountain to climb.

 And, speaking of marketing, this can be an often-overlooked aspect of farming, which it should not be. Creating a dependable brand for your farm with a quality website and social media presence, wholesale and retail connections in your community, collaborations with other local businesses, customer loyalty programs and promotions and getting the message out that you embrace sustainable and ethical business practices are all crucial efforts to lead a successful farming operation into the future.

 So, if 2023 wasn’t the best year you’ve had as a grower, keep your head held high and stay positive. Because, as Will Rogers once said, “The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer. 


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