It’s a hopeful time of year for us in agriculture. Each year when the calendar rolls into the spring season, farmers are waiting expectantly for the first signs that it’s time to get back in the field.

As you prepare for the long hours and important work of planting season, here’s another “hope” to consider. What are your hopes for the future of your farm?

Here’s one way to dig into this: How are you thinking differently now versus 10 years ago? Maybe your life is quite different than it was then, so your thinking is very different, too.

When we choose to think in a more long-term way — about our lives, the farming operation, our hopes and dreams — we begin to focus on the future and not allow today’s problems to alter or chart our course. We start to be more intentional about the decisions we need to make today to get us where we want to be in the future.

The key is that the strategic choices you make now for your farming operation affect how it will develop in the future. And the strategic priorities you set for your farm drive all the decisions in your operation — from your overall game plan for planting season down to choices such as planting depth and speed.

With all of the planning and managing you need to do to make sure planting season runs smoothly, it might not seem like the prime time to be considering your farm’s strategy. But as you move deeper into planting season — with a lot to do and a very particular window to get it done in — it’s important not to lose sight of the overall direction you want for your farming operation.

It can be tough to keep track of that direction if you don’t have a defined, clear strategy and future vision for your farm. As the head of your farming operation, you need to set the vision, priorities and goals.

Otherwise, you run the risk of continuing to do something a particular way just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

If that happens, the farming operation might not progress how you had hoped. Your goals for the growth of your farm might feel stuck in slow motion.

Sometimes that can be kick-started again just by setting aside time to intentionally focus on the future — on the strategic plan and priorities for your farm. It might help to have an adviser walk you through it so they can act as a coach to help you develop your thoughts.

With the growth of farm operations and the economic variations in today’s ag world, the consequences of disengaging from the financial and business side of your operation during a busy time on the farm could be high. That’s a mistake no farm can afford.

The financial situation for your operation and for the outside world both can change rapidly. As the financial picture for your crop year continues to evolve and shape up, keep an eye on the numbers.

Here are a few things to keep track of on the financial side of your business during planting and growing seasons:

* Periodically revise financial projections for an updated picture of your situation. Update yield estimates and price estimates or have a financial specialist update these for you. Use different scenarios with various combinations of realistic yield and price estimates so you can look at the range of possibilities for the year. Make sure any crop acreage shifts are reflected in your projections, as well;

* Use projected data to help with decision-making. It’s tempting to make decisions based on emotion, especially early in the growing season when there’s uncertainty around what the year will bring. Numbers bring more clarity to the situation and help when you have to make decisions rapidly; and

* Share information with your banker. Update your banker so that he or she feels in the know about your situation. Ask for their input and opinion on big decisions. Give them insight into how you’re making decisions. You may want to prepare for some tougher questions from your lender this year, as they are closely watching the economic picture in ag and ultimately must answer to their regulators. Proactively address any concerns you anticipate from them. Make sure you have financial information ready for them.

What will you do this spring to keep your farm’s overall strategy and financial plan in mind? Have a safe and productive planting season!