by Michael Wren
While spring and summer create an innumerable amount of tasks for growers, many are faced with the question, “What should I do this winter.” While it seems like a few months off and a vacation might be in order, this is actually the most important time of your entire year. Keeping a greenhouse running has its own challenges but if you make a set plan in winter and know where you are headed for the upcoming year you will be able to divert more of your time to your plants and customers.
“Spring Cleaning”
While most people clean out their homes in the spring, late fall and early winter are the best times to get rid of store clutter and other things that build up over the course of a year. Keep in mind that your own workspace is just as important to keep clean as your selling space. On the off chance that a customer or potential customer would like to tour your farm or greenhouse, it is nice to be able to show them a clean well-kept place that you are proud of.
Repairs and Maintenance
Run through all of your equipment and see what is working well and what could use improvement. If that dripping spigot is still leaking, consider repacking the valve or replacing it. One study suggests that a small leak can cost $20 per year while a fast dripping spigot can waste 30 to a few hundred gallons of water a day and cost $60-$200 over the course of a year. Well worth the simple repair. Readying your machinery for a cold motionless winter will help to ensure that it starts right up come spring.
After everything is cleaned, fixed, and organized, taking inventory of what you have is crucial. Knowing what you have and what you need, will save you from accumulating clutter as well as from buying the same thing twice. However, if there is something that requires more attention than the rest, keeping spares of some tools and materials will save you an extra trip when you need them again.
Just like changing leaves and snowfall, taxes come once a year, every year and winter is a great time to do them. However, tax preparation is a yearlong endeavor that if done right will make a time consuming and confusing process much easier. Whether you use an accountant or do your own taxes, organization of receipts and income will make it go more smoothly.
Plan your year
Once the season is over you need to see what worked well and what didn’t. Keeping solid records helps not only with taxes but also with noting what your best and worst products are. It will also allow you to see where your highest expenses are on a year-to-year basis. If you want to implement any changes to your selection or want to add another greenhouse or building, winter is the best time to make such plans. Other pieces to put together are which products moved well and which did not. While it undoubtedly changes from year to year there are certain staples that you should keep regular. Whether you grow vegetables or flowers there is always one product that rises above the rest.
Learn about the Industry
Industry norms and practices are constantly changing and the off-season is a great time to catch up on the improvements made in the past year. This is a perfect time to read up on new studies, go to trade shows, attend industry related seminars and participate in workshops to help improve your knowledge on the industry. Meeting with suppliers and other growers is also a good idea in order to stay current. If you come across a new method or product early in the winter you have the rest of the season to research and plan the implementation to see if it is a viable venture. To stay current, researching and planning your next step will always stay relevant.
While there is always something more that could be done it is important to realize that everybody needs a break from work. It can be anywhere from a warm beach to a few days alone — anything that allows you to clear your head and recharge for the upcoming season.
While some view winter as an off-season, it is really the most important part of the year for most growing businesses. Proper planning in the winter will make the rest of the year go more smoothly. No matter what you do: think it, plan it, and implement it to the best of your ability.