by Kevin Brooks, Extension educator, farm business management and marketing, Illinois Extension

Managing a farm is a big job. Know what questions to ask when considering hiring a professional farm manager. URBANA, Ill. — Managing a farm is a big job. From determining cash rent to planning the next planting or calving season, a farm manager can be an experienced asset to help when making decisions about a farm. Guessing around decision-making can cost farmers thousands in potential revenues that are critical for day-to-day operation and profitability. There are several ways and times to use a farm manager.

What is a professional farm manager, and what do they do?

Farm managers provide consulting services to farmland owners for a fee. The common areas to consult a farm manager include comprehensive on-farm visits, evaluating soil health, determining cash rent, assisting with licensed real estate deals, and more. Managers vary in responsibilities by situation, farm size, assets, and management company policies, which make choosing and hiring a farm manager a decision to be taken seriously.

Depending on the amount of oversight the farmer or landowner desires, individuals can inquire if a local farm manager offers specific services that provide advice but leaves the management of the farm with the customer. Others offer complete farm management services for a fee and will take care of more inclusive responsibilities, such as cash rent and grain marketing contracts. For various reasons, operations often bring in farm managers when a landowner can no longer handle the full responsibilities.

Some farm management offices are owned by financial institutions that provide loans for farmers leasing the land. At the same time, others are often at banks where there is no collaboration between the loan and farm management departments.

“An experienced farm manager with years of experience combined with good office support, good record systems, and fewer low-acreage farmers to manage can effectively manage many acres,” says Kevin Brooks, University of Illinois Extension farm business management and marketing educator.

Handling a large number of different farmers operating on a smaller number of acres typically requires more time and effort. When considering hiring a farm manager, asking several questions can help provide insight into how much time a manager can devote to a farm.

A few sample questions to ask a farm manager include:

•What does a day in a farm manager role look like for an individual?

•What are some strengths of the manager and farm management team?

•How much time do they believe can be devoted to each farm operation?

•Can it be a quick phone call for questions or rather meetings held at an office?

Protection, profitability, and growth are essential to a farm operation. Having a list of questions personalized by an operation’s needs and specifications sets expectations during the consideration and hiring stages.

“A tip when searching for a farm manager is the goal of always feeling comfortable to ask questions of a farm manager,” says Brooks.

Choose wisely and pay attention to what is happening on the farm. Good communication with a contracted farm manager impacts a farm’s future.

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Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.