Gone are the days when farmers left their front doors unlocked and their barns unsecured. Today, farmers face a growing threat from thieves out to steal everything from tractors to crops to livestock.

While agricultural theft is nothing new, it is on the rise and farmers are doing all they can to protect themselves and their property from these criminals. Law enforcement is helping, too. Sheriff departments across the country have added rural crime units.

Of course the best offense is a good defense. Farmers are using a combination of tried-and-true crime fighting methods and modern technology to stop petty thieves as well as large-scale criminal operations looking to get away with thousands of dollars in farm equipment and much more. What follows is a list of the most effective ways to keep thieves at bay:

  • Post signs. Many a hiker has crossed farmland unaware that he or she is trespassing. In such cases, posting signs that read “private property” or “no trespassing” should do the trick.
  • Put up fences and other barriers. Signs aren’t always visible so you may want to put up fences, including barbed wire fences. You also should consider planting large trees or hedges to deter unwanted visitors. These natural barriers also help to obscure your land and property. Gate hinges are easily removed so should be fortified. Secure gates with chains and locks. Secure access roads with gates or cables stretched between posts cemented in the ground.
  • Lock it up. Weld metal covers over hasps to protect padlocks from being cut. Lock storage areas with padlocks, hasps and deadbolts.
  • Light it up. Make sure your farm is well lit at night and that it is lit in the right places, including near fuel tanks, grain bins, barns and outbuildings. Lights should be kept on automatic timers. Install motion sensor lighting around the perimeter of shops and other buildings.
  • Get a dog. A dog’s bark is a strong deterrent to would-be criminals.
  • Install video surveillances systems. Cameras, monitors and recorders should be integrated with devices like motion detectors that trigger alarms and activate video recorders. Sometimes just seeing a camera will be enough to scare away a thief.
  • Make your mark. The owner applied number (OAN) program was established by the FBI to return stolen property using a unique 10-digit number, identifying the state, county and owner. This number can be permanently stamped on tractors, tools and everything in between. As a result of this program, stolen equipment has been recovered from across the U.S. You also can fit equipment and other vehicles with security tags that relay a GPS signal to help locate the property (and the thieves who took it)! You should permanently tag your livestock and post signs to advertise this fact, as well.
  • Boost awareness. On large farms, make sure employees are always on the lookout for suspicious activity or unfamiliar faces. Also make sure any vandalism or property damage is reported immediately.

While agricultural theft shows no signs of slowing down, today’s farmers are fighting back. And the methods they are using are proving to be very effective!

The agriculture industry is experiencing a boom in the area of technology that is unlike any it has ever seen before. If you are an agri-business looking to entice your Ag customers into purchasing the latest technology—from crop sensors to drones to livestock biometrics—there is no doubt you know a lot about what you are selling.

Farmers and ranchers will no doubt benefit from such technology and are interested in learning as much about it as possible. One thing they are not interested in, however, is listening to you go over every technological detail. Instead, you may want to take some advice from Albert Einstein when he said, “Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.” In other words, as farmers continue to face a barrage of new and sometimes complicated technologies, it would be well for those marketing such technologies to keep their message straightforward and not throw in a lot of extraneous tech-speak.

This is not to say that the information should be oversimplified. The technology available to farmers today is remarkable and will allow farmers to be more productive. However, as a marketer, it is important to remember that your job is to give farmers what they want—the lowdown on how this new technology will help make their farming operation more efficient and more profitable. It also is important to remember that while farmers are well able to adapt to new technologies, they are not going to rush to buy new technologies without thinking long and hard about whether or not they will benefit from it.

The best way to market new technology to farmers is to illustrate these technological advances in terms that mean something to farmers. Stay away from conversations about complex algorithms and focus more on reducing water usage or increasing milk production, for example. Farmers want to know how new technology can be incorporated into their operations without causing major disruptions. And if there will be some disruptions, and chances are there will, be honest about it. However, frame those things in relation to the value farmers will gain.

If farmers sense that you are less interested in how a particular technology will benefit them and more interested in impressing them with your knowledge of all things tech, they will be anything but impressed. Instead, let them know you want to help them improve their operation. By doing so, everyone will benefit from the newest products in Ag tech.

Harsh winter weather can be dangerous no matter where you live. However, blizzards and severe conditions hit farmers and ranchers especially hard.

When you are miles from the nearest store or even a neighbor you need to make sure that you have everything on hand so that you, your family and your animals can survive extreme conditions. Dangerously cold temperature, strong winds and reduced visibility are just some of the conditions you may encounter. Further, heavy snow can lead to the collapse of roofs and power outages.

When it comes to surviving a blizzard, it is important not to be caught off guard. While weather predictions aren’t always spot on, it is unlikely that heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions will come out of the, well, clear blue sky.

Making sure you are well prepared for a blizzard means that you have what you need on hand so that you and your livestock can ride out the storm. It is important that you winterize your farmhouse and all outbuildings while the weather is still mild. You also should stock your home with extra blankets to keep you warm in the event that power goes out. Bottle water and food that does not need to be heated up before you eat it is essential. Finally, make sure you have a first-aid kit and that you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
Livestock farmers and ranchers need to be diligent (and most are) when preparing livestock before a blizzard hits. Unfortunately, many times a blizzard may occur that is much stronger than expected and the results can be catastrophic. The following steps should be taken in anticipation of a hard winter:

1. Make sure all livestock are in the best possible health. This will go a long way toward helping them survive weather emergencies.

2. Evaluate emergency hay reserves. Since cold weather increases animals’ energy needs, it is important that you are able to adjust their diet as needed during a long stretch of extremely low temperatures.

3. Service all feeding equipment to avoid breakdowns. This includes assessing fuel storage and supplies and testing generators and connections. It also includes making sure water heaters are in working order.

4. Maintain structural windbreaks.

5. Have adequate bedding. Not only does clean, dry bedding reduce stress on animals, when animals are wet their nutrition maintenance requirements increase.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember during blizzards (or any severe weather situation) is that you cannot take care of your family, animals or property if you don’t take care of yourself first.