By Stephanie Oaks
Almost every family business is affected by the change of seasons in one way or another. Some seasons bring so much business or work that it almost seems impossible to keep up with, while others bring with them a scarcity of income. Sometimes it is not just the change of seasons in the calendar year that bring about change, but also the changes of seasons in our economy, in trends of society, and even in government regulations. How can we make sure that we are able to adapt and stay in business—able to provide for our families—as seasons change?
Plan for the changes you know are coming
It is easy to get caught up in the season we are in now, and when change comes, we are caught off guard. We must look ahead and plan for the future, whether that means the next few months or the next few years. Here at No. 9 Farms, where changes in the literal seasons affect us greatly, we have tried to plan for income streams throughout the year. We have planted a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm for winter income; we sell greens, herb and vegetable starts, and PYO strawberries in the spring; and sell PYO raspberries (and blueberries in the near future) and various fruits, vegetables, and herbs during the summer and fall. Our goal is to make the most of our land year round.
Create value-added products
During the dead of winter, it is pretty hard to grow anything outside of the greenhouse or hoop houses. Our focus then shifts to creating value-added products. We make specialty salts from our dried peppers (spicy ones!) and herbs, and create herb blends and teas from the herbs we have been drying all summer and fall. Value-added products tend to have greater profit margins and often fill a need (or want) for consumers. Make sure that the product that you are spending your energy creating is one that the consumer wants or needs.
Budget, budget, budget
We all know that this is easier said than done, but it is a good reminder for us all. Besides farming, my husband is a professional musician—another income source that fluctuates greatly during the year. It would be very easy for us to live carefree in regards to our spending during the summer months when the gardens are bountiful and the music business is at its peak, but we cannot. Winter is coming and we must save and preserve for this season. It is quite literal for us. How can you “save and preserve” in your business? Are you budgeting for downturns, changes, or other unfortunate circumstances? Are you staying out of debt so that you can stand on your own in times of trouble?
Change with the times
As entrepreneurs, we must be aware of the changes around us. Fads and trends come and go, economies change, perceptions of needs change, and even climates change. We must remain aware and willing to adapt if we are to remain viable in our businesses.
Keep your head up, be aware of your surroundings and where you are headed, and enjoy that business that you are so passionate about!
Stephanie Oaks lives in Ashland City, Tennessee, where she and her husband own and operate No. 9 Farms, an organic farm that specializes in berries, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and Christmas trees. Stephanie spends the remainder of her time homeschooling their two teenage children and teaching classes on organic gardening and healthy cooking.