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You might not know it to see all the snow still on the ground in some parts of the country, but spring is upon us. And as farmers ready themselves for long days, they first should make sure that their equipment and machinery is tuned up and ready to go.

Not only will keeping farm equipment well maintained help to extend its life, it also will make sure that everyone who uses that equipment remains safe. What follows is a list of what farmers need to check before they put their equipment to work.

  1. Lights and flashers. Flashers and turn signals need to be tested to make sure they are working correctly. Emblems need to be clean and any worn down ones replaced.
  2. Shields and guards. Check your PTO drive-line shields. Shields should turn freely and independently of the drive line. Further, to ensure maximum protection, the drive-line shields, tractor master shields and corresponding implement shields need to be in place.
  3. Hydraulic systems and mechanical locks. Check all hoses, fittings and seals and replace worn pieces.
  4. Tires. Check that all tires are inflated properly and that bearings are properly lubricated.
  5. Sprayer and planters. Hoses, valves, fittings and all other components must be free of leaks. Any tanks should have tight covers so spills are avoided.
  6. Hitch pins. The locking hitch pins on tractors and implements must be checked to guarantee that they are secure and in good working order.
  7. Steps and platforms. Always keep equipment platforms and steps clean so that no one slips and falls when entering, exiting or standing on equipment.

No matter what make or model of equipment you own, make sure you are familiar with the owner’s manual. This ensures that you will have all the information necessary for its particular service and maintenance requirements.

Getting your tractors and other equipment ready for spring doesn’t need to take a long time but it will pay off in the long run. After all, there is nothing worse than being slowed down by a breakdown after work has begun in the fields and around the farm.
Finally, it is always a good idea to have a strong relationship with your equipment dealer. That way if there is a major issue with your equipment you have someone to turn to for help instead of scrambling to find someone at the last minute.

One of the great things about farmers is that what you see is what you get. Most farmers have little interest in trying to project a certain image just to impress others.

This straightforward approach carries over into the type of people farmers want to do business with. Almost without exception, farmers are not taken in by smooth-talking salespeople trying to push a product or service they don’t want or need.

When creating content to connect, educate and inspire farmers, it is important that you don’t try to make your content too slick. Instead, give farmers what they really want-straightforward information that shows them how to solve a problem, learn something new or make their operation more efficient.

Another important aspect of content marketing in the Ag world is to remember that farmers expect you to show up on time, even online. Therefore, no matter what your content marketing strategy, it needs to reach farmers on a regular basis. Farmers will appreciate your efforts and will reward those efforts by paying attention to what you have to say and coming back for more.

While building a content marketing strategy that allows you to connect with farmers may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be. What follows is a general outline of an effective content marketing strategy for your Ag-based business:

  1. Find out where the farmers you are trying to attract hangout online. You can publish all the content in the world but if your target audience of farmers can’t find that content it won’t matter.
  2. Decide what you are trying to achieve through your content marketing efforts. Do you want to be seen as a thought leader in the Ag industry? Do you want to provide support? Be sure and narrow your goals down to a few key objectives. If you try to do too much it will dilute your efforts.
  3. Decide how you will measure success. Shares? Web traffic?
  4. Stick to a schedule. Make sure you post your content regularly and on the same channels. Sticking to a schedule means farmers will always know where to find you.
  5. Manage your expectations. If you expect immediate and overwhelming results from your content marketing strategy you are likely to be disappointed and give up too soon. Content marketing takes time, but when done consistently and correctly, it is sure to pay off.

Farmers are collecting more data than ever and experts in the field of agricultural technology say this is a good thing. Ask farmers and you may get a more lukewarm response, however. While it is true that many farmers are collecting a great deal of data, many are unsure what to do with that data.

For years farmers have been told that data collection will help them run their farms more efficiently and allow them to make better business decisions. This may be true, but only if farmers know how to accurately analyze the data they collect.

Many farmers are reluctant to hand over their data to an outside organization or company to have it analyzed. So what’s a farmer to do? Analyze it themselves, of course! Here’s how:

  1. Choose the correct software. There are several software packages out there so farmers need to do their research and pick the one that aligns best with their particular goals.
  2. Gather information. It is essential that the yield monitor data in the cab is accurate and that you have a reliable way of transferring that data from the cab to the office.
  3. Check (and double check) your data. Once your data has been entered into the software program it is important to double check that it is correct. Any errors entered into the software program will have a negative impact on your bottom line so always take the time to re-check things like yield totals, etc. While most farmers are interested in documenting their harvest, it also pays to document all operations. Doing so will help determine overall trends.
  4. Study the trends. Once you are sure your data has been collected and entered correctly you can look back over the crop season and examine what happened and why. This will help you to make necessary adjustments and figure out what factors drove yields and many other things.
  5. Put insights into action. Nothing you have done up until this point will mean anything if you don’t take the insights gleaned from your data and put those insights into practice.

Farmers are self-reliant. This is true whether they are harvesting crops or gathering and analyzing data. While farmers can certainly go to an outside source to analyze their data, it’s nice to know that those who wish to analyze it themselves can do so.

If you are looking to engage farmers through technology (and if you want to successfully market to farmers you better be!), it is important that you pay close attention to exactly who you are looking to engage. It also is important to remember that the best method to connect with a particular farmer today may not be the best method next week or next month.

In other words, when engaging farmers through technology, the name of the game is adaption. And if you aren’t constantly adapting to the farmers you want to reach, chances are you aren’t going to reach them at all. If all this sounds overwhelming, fear not, what follows are some tips to help you match the right engagement tool to the right farmer at the right time.

  1. Remember that segmenting is the name of the game. Within your target market, organize farmers based on specific demographics-size of farm, crop type, for example. Segmenting farmers allows you to tailor your marketing message. And the more relevant the message, the more likely farmers are to respond and engage.
  2. Get interactive. Use different forms of media to determine which are the most popular with your target audience. Host a webinar and see how many people tune in, for example. It also is a good idea to try to mix particular media. Send out an email that asks people to like your Facebook page. Not only will you find out what modes of communication your target audience prefers, you can gather important contact information in the process.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If there are channels that the farmers you are targeting already use, jump in and join the conversation. Do your research to find out where farmers go to share information or get advice. It also pays to find out who the key influencers are within a particular demographic you are trying to reach. By engaging with key influencers you can get your name out there, as well.
  4. Repeat. Technology moves quickly so once you have segmented your target audience, gotten interactive and jumped on already popular channels, it is important to repeat these steps on a regular basis. Only then can you be sure that you are keeping up with the farmers you are looking to reach.

Today’s world is becoming smaller thanks to technology. This means that you can reach out to more farmers than ever. But as is true with almost everything, quality trumps quantity. Make sure you are using technology to help you connect with the type of farmers you are targeting, not just the most farmers.

If you own a farm, chances are there is a shop on that farm. And while crops and livestock may be the lifeblood of a farm, the shop is what keeps everything in working order.

Unfortunately, farm shops can be dangerous places. The tools and machinery contained in shops, when used incorrectly, can lead to injuries and, in rare cases, even death. During the cold, winter months, shops are especially busy as equipment repair and maintenance tasks are undertaken.

Not every shop accident can be foreseen or prevented. However, agricultural safety experts say that shop accidents and injuries can be drastically reduced by keeping the following in mind when working in the shop:

1. Good housekeeping goes a long way. Trips and falls are most often caused by clutter so make sure to keep walkways and work areas swept and free of debris. It also is important to clean up any spills right away.

2. Keep things well lit. Poor lighting makes it difficult to perform work safely and can cause eye strain. Make sure the entire shop is adequately lit and be sure to change burnt out bulbs promptly.

3. Save your back. Hydraulic lifts and hoists help to prevent back strain and injuries. Be sure to use this type of equipment when lifting heavy objects.

4. Protect yourself. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must in the shop. From eye goggles to heavy-duty work boots, failure to use the appropriate PPE can lead to injuries. Whether it is a mask to protect from filter dust or steel-toed boots to save your feet from falling objects, make sure you are always dressed for the job.

5. Get grounded. When electrical equipment isn’t properly grounded you risk electrical injury. Also be careful never to use frayed cords or cord less than 12-gauge. These type of cords may cost more but are well worth the investment as they are safer and help prevent motor damage.

6. Extinguish fire risks. Flammable and combustible materials should be stored away from heat sources and flammable liquids must be stored in covered containers. Always hang fire extinguishers near shop doors and check them annually. Proper ventilation also is essential.

Shop safety is a vital part of overall farm safety. If you are unsure if your shop is up to code, or need help installing safety features, it may be in your best interest to seek the advice of a safety expert. After all, whether you are working in the field or in the shop, safety must always be your first priority.

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!