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Farmers are looking ahead in the new year

EAST LANSING, MI. — The initial agricultural winter forecast for 2023 is for above normal temperatures through January with above normal precipitation. The lack of rain and drought conditions of 2022 must be made up with an equal amount of above average precipitation to compensate and replenish both the surface and groundwater.The New Year is traditionally a time to reflect, recharge, step back and set some goals for the year ahead. Now is a time to reflect on the farm business, both internally and externally. Step back and try to get a “30,000-foot view” of the overall business and the big picture, before diving into analyzing various cropping enterprises. Sometimes it is helpful to have an outside third party do some of the analysis. Roger Betz, the MSU farm management educator has 40 years of experience and farms too. He is available free of charge, on an appointment basis, and can provide a number of farm management services or help with a new farm recordkeeping system, such as Telfarm or Microtel. Nothing beats a good set of financial and business records to get a black and white look at the business!The new year is “fresh with no mistakes in it.” This paraphrase from Anne of Green Gables is a helpful reminder that farmers are optimistic by nature. Farming is a business where you cannot control many of the variables that affect income, expenses and profit potential, such as weather, prices, geo-politics, exports, supply chain issues and interest rates. 2023 will be extra stressful with the uncertainty of a new farm bill being written, with all the non-ag components required to get the votes to pass it. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and farming situation there, South American agriculture, currency valuations, political stability, China, and now Mexico with their threatened import ban of U.S. corn in 2024 are other factors that will affect ag and non-ag sectors of our economy. One thing top of mind should be thinking about what is new to try out and what to scrap that didn’t work, machine or tool, seed, chemical or treatment, timing of sprays or machinery additions or sales. Don’t get caught up on micro anything until you can show a need to justify it. Extension has a ‘compendium of non-traditional materials’ of various “snake oil” products that seem to show up every few years, some new and some with just a new package or name. The compendium used to be a giant three-ring notebook of reports researching these products. It is still available on the web for anyone to check out.Getting away from the farm can be refreshing for a number of reasons and can be tax deductible! Hearing new ideas, seeing different parts of the country, meeting new people can all be stimulating and give farmers a new perspective. Listening to national leaders like Zippy Duvall, Tom Vilsack, Katherine Tai or yield contest leaders like David Hula or Randy Dowdy can be stimulating.Nettlesome Issues such as higher interest rates, weeds, fertilizers can all be managed with added attention. Statistically women are better at marketing crops and livestock than men because they tend to be less emotionally attached to the commodity. Marketing services are important to keep you up to date on the details of USDA and WASDE reports and some are free of charge. 2022 was a wakeup call on the disruptions of supply chain issues, including parts, machinery, etc.Social Media can be a real challenge to sorting out facts from myths and opinion. Non-farmers, particularly in the U.S., are more disconnected to agriculture than ever before. Everyone involved in agriculture must constantly have some facts and “elevator speeches” to combat misinformation. Remember the 2016 ag banquet and Michelle Miller’s talk “Fake ag news?”MSU crop and pest management updates (agronomy day) program for southeast Michigan will be held on Tuesday, February 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Mill in Dundee. Cost is $40 which includes light breakfast, hearty “back in the day” lunch and a 2023 MSU field crop weed control guide. Five pesticide re-certification credits and CCA credits will also be available. The registration deadline is Tuesday, January 31, 2023. For information and to register, contact the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office at 269-467-5511 or contact Phil Kaatz at or 810-667-0341.Now that the 2023 gardening catalogs have started arriving, it is always great to think about growing your own food right from your own garden. The pictures all look so perfect, but people need to prioritize what they really want to grow and what they can buy from a local farmer’s market. For example, I buy sweet corn from Matt and Mark Schultz in Dundee instead of growing my own to save my garden space for other crops. Monroe County has many hard-working local farmers who specialize in growing produce they do a good job of so why should I grow the same things? And I always like to save space for marigolds, the one flower I can grow successfully! Novices should start small with a few vegetables and flowers they know they like. Make sure the garden space has plenty of light and drainage. Better may be to grow in containers or raised beds. Based upon the past two years, some veggie varieties will sell out quickly so order early and re-order if you find more space, time or items of interest.