During the winter months as the land rests, there are things we can do to get a jump on the next growing season. Imagine being able to get right to work when the weather warms – all equipment clean, sharp, lubed, and charged…all supplies stocked and organized, ready for use. Now is the time that we can make sure that happens. Here are a few off-season tips I’ve gathered over the years – my own and others from growers across the country.

EVALUATE YOUR EQUIPMENT

In every equipment barn, you’re likely to find a spectrum of functionality. There are the near-new items that you just purchased and other time-tested items that may need repair or replacement. The cold season is a perfect time to assess what you have and create a strategy that positions you for smooth sailing come spring. If you need parts or financing to bring your equipment game up to par, start those processes now. Give yourself plenty of time to comparison shop for an equipment loan if you need one and to navigate lengthy shipping intervals that we’re experiencing due to a glitchy supply chain. If you don’t already have one, this is also a great time to create an inventory spreadsheet of everything you own, complete with date of purchase, price, vendor, serial number and warranty information. Want to go a step farther? Create a 2022 maintenance schedule so you can stay aware and on top of needed upkeep, even when you’re at your busiest. Create a notebook library for your equipment: organize owners’ manuals, receipts, warranties, and records into binders so if there’s a breakdown this summer, you have all the facts you need, handy and available at a moments’ notice.

CLEAN AND MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT

While you’re organizing those owners’ manuals, read any manufacturers’ recommendations on winter storage. Fill tanks and lubricate any mechanical equipment. If things need repairs, get those fixes done now. Clean equipment per your owner’s manual and, if necessary, cover items with tarps or custom covers if needed to keep them dust- and debris-free throughout the winter. Consider battery maintainers to help extend battery life. Don’t forget your hand tools! Check to make sure these are clean, sharp, and lubricated, with grips and handles in good repair.

CHECK YOUR SUPPLIES

Pesticides, herbicides, nutrients – they all have a shelf life. Check your containers for expiration dates and quantities. Also check for any storage instructions you should be following to ensure the safety and stability of these products. Just as you evaluate your equipment needs, you can use this opportunity to assess the status of needed chemicals and create purchasing plan that works with your cash flow. Again, keep in mind to stay ahead of possible slow shipping schedules and order earlier than you might ordinarily. And how about your hemp seeds? Now is the time to start planning your 2022 seed purchase! I have a great FAQ sheet that can help you make the smartest possible choices for your business, including the best way to evaluate different strains and vendors. Read it here.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER TIDY MONSTER

During the growing season, we know how hectic things can get. There’s no extra time to worry about accumulated dirt and trash that builds up when things are busy, much less bringing order to messy storage areas! Give yourself a head start by cleaning outbuildings and sheds as you winterize your operation. Lots of farm and hardware stores discount storage systems and containers in January. Check your local favorites for sales!

YOU’LL THANK YOURSELF

Starting the growing season with up-to-date records, clean, well-organized storage, and ready-to-go equipment sets you up for success through harvest. It takes a bit of work now, but you’ll be grateful you invested the time!