Tanner Winterhof is an agriculture expert in the fields of crop production and soil management who co-founded Farm4Profit, a media company that helps players in the agricultural space maximize profitability. Small family farms produce most of the world’s food, but changing market dynamics, global events, and ag research and innovation are changing the landscape. Farming is becoming more competitive, and many farms face difficulty keeping ahead of the curve. However, with the right resources and direction, farmers can tap into many new opportunities for enhancing operations and raising profitability if they look in the right places.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, especially for farmers who may be used to doing things on their own and may be reluctant to delegate to outsiders. However, Tanner Winterhof says that expert advice can be invaluable, as long as the advice given is trustworthy and can be independently verified.
“You can’t control a lot of things in agriculture,” Winterhof says. “You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the prices of the markets. There are always things outside what you can truly affect. However, you can put preventative measures in place. You can buy your insurance. You can follow a plan as closely as you can. You can assemble a team of people that can either corroborate your opinions or can perhaps help you not make a bad decision when you go to make a change or make a purchase.”
One reason for Winterhof’s success in ag consulting and the success of Farm4Profit in the social media space — the platform boasts 23,000 active podcast listeners and 30,000-plus newsletter recipients — is that farmers across the board are facing a wide range of make-or-break developments that are changing the face of the sector. It’s now more critical than ever for farmers to adapt to changes and raise the bar of what their farms and businesses can do.
“Farming is an industry that people will die for,” Tanner Winterhof says, “because they love working in it. Very few farmers retire. Most of them die in the industry, and there are very few other industries that people truly love working in outside of agriculture.” Given this dedication, it’s understandable why some farmers may want to do everything themselves, but the spectrum of challenges facing today’s farmers demands a new approach.
“Not too long ago, cross-pollination and herbicide drift weren’t understood as serious issues, and many growers didn’t think about an insecticides’ ability to kill everything in a field — harmful or not — from an environmental perspective,” Winterhof said. “Today, concerns about the environment and climate change play a much larger role in farm operations.”
Tanner Winterhof: ‘Agriculture Is an Industry That Has Many Areas of Knowledge’
Tanner Winterhof has addressed other developments that are bringing about positive changes in farming and agricultural practices, many of which many growers were not thinking about even as recently as a few years ago. These include pivoting from conventional to more sustainable farming practices, building strong and effective branding and communications channels, adopting new cost-saving technologies, being smart about insurance and risk management, safeguarding worker mental health, and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to livestock nutrition.
He told Inspirery, “Growing up, I saw the strength in relationships that my parents had with their advisers in agriculture. Agriculture is an industry that has many areas of knowledge, which makes it difficult for one person to be an expert in all of them.”
Each of these areas can potentially lead to more savings, higher profitability, and greater output — or problems. Winterhof cautions that the important thing is that farmers first check and verify the fit, relevance, applicability, and expected results of specific changes or actions before making them. For example, how can a farmer know that a certain tech stack will work as well on their farm as it has on other farms? How will the location, size, and layout of a farm — as well as the type of machinery used on it and the goods it produces — affect decisions regarding a new storage bin, a new loading ramp, or the latest heavy farming equipment? How may a fast and cheap solution be better or worse than a slow and costly one over the next several decades? And of course, how can farmers get the information, guidance, and resources they need to understand the pros and cons of the available alternatives and choose and implement the best one?
Tanner Winterhof says that a thought-provoking example of how all of these concepts tie in together is if we look at making changes to a farm’s storage bin or grain handling facility. There are many challenges when it comes to choosing the correct bin sizes and facility layout for handling grain on a farm, and there are several important considerations that must be kept in mind. These include crop variability (since different crops have different storage requirements, with some needing more space than others), production volume (which can vary greatly from season to season and requires planning for increases or decreases in yield), and seasonal factors (such as temperature, humidity, and moisture levels that can impact the shelf life of crops).
Having accessible storage, controlling temperature and ventilation, understanding the cost (and long-term returns) of implementation, and being able to gather the right data to support or reject a given proposal are all equally important.
The interesting thing, according to Winterhof, is that the decision about the storage bin or grain handling facility will not be restricted to that part of the business alone. Forward-thinking farmers should look at other value-added areas where changes can be made alongside this decision. Examples can include building the right tech infrastructure around the change so that data can be collected and analyzed, as well as optimizing production and delivery schedules. Further improvements can then be made in, for example, branding, customer outreach, and creating other online sources of income. Finding a better source of capital, more comprehensive insurance coverage, more effectively disposing of (or making use of) refuse, and finding better people to have in-house to guide new initiatives can be secondary and tertiary improvements that can all stem from a single new initiative.
To inform and encourage, Tanner Winterhof started the “Farm4Profit Podcast,” which was named one of the top podcasts by AgriAmerica.
“We wanted to build a platform that provided a permanent place for agriculture experts to share their advice and farmers to be able to look up and consume the advice in a fun and entertaining fashion,” Winterhof told Inspiry. “We then have learned that farmers can learn from other farmers, so not only does our company have resources from industry experts, but also has perspectives shared by other farmers in the same position as those who consume the content.
“As the business continues to grow, we continue to listen and observe from our audience as to which content and resources need to be provide