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Supplied photo. Marytina Lawrence / Special to Agweek

Farm visit provides helpful insight into the future

I have spent most of my adult life promoting agriculture. I have always believed it to be an honor and a privilege to be part of the great endeavor of growing food, caring for animals and raising children in an environment steeped in family and tradition.

As there are fewer of us choosing to engage in this profession and the ability to survive emotionally and financially becomes more and more complicated everyday, I witnessed a glimmer of hope for the future the other day.

My oldest son was born a farmer. It is in his blood literally and figuratively. He has wanted nothing else in his life than to follow in his father's footsteps and, one day, take over the family farm. We have continued to encourage him on his journey, giving him guidance on educational choices, life choices, investments and goals in hopes of equipping him to become the heir apparent.

At times, the future for a young, enthusiastic, man of 19 looks somewhat bleak. Farmers are struggling right now. Farming income is at an all time low, consumer scrutiny at an all time high and the weather is definitely not cooperating at all. There are moments when my son will look at me with deep concern for his future, and I don't always know exactly what to tell him. Giving up in our family is not part of our makeup and for that reason alone we press on despite the bleak outlook we are hearing and reading about day in and day out.

This past weekend, my son took a trip to southern Minnesota to visit another farm family. Upon starting his first semester of college, studying agriculture, he has been fortunate enough to make a couple of friends his age in similar situations with similar goals, and it has been helpful to him in reducing his self doubt. I was excited for him to take this trip as the business they are in is very different from ours, and I anticipated the experience would be beneficial.

He returned home with a newfound enthusiasm for farming and so many ideas and discussion points that we were up into the wee hours of the night listening to him share. The discussion would continue into the next morning, and as a result my farmer husband and I were able to gain more insight into the things that our son would like to accomplish and to gain perspective collectively on some new ways we can move forward in our farming business to become more efficient.

Farming is a business that changes constantly. Survival in farming is dependent on the ability to think on your feet and be willing to make modifications and improvements. Our way of life is becoming harder. For some it is over after years of a willingness to work with the times. My genuine hope for the future is that those who depend on what we do will find new ways to support what we do. It is imperative to our survival and to the future of our society.

My son's commitment to farming and the desire to seek a profession and life that guarantees him nothing gives me great pause. My belief in the American farmer gives me an equal amount of hope.