I once interviewed a veteran rancher who mentioned in passing that while he was good with cattle, he wasn't good with finances. I said something about him just being modest. He said, no, it wasn't modesty — he relied heavily on his agricultural banker to help him make sound financial decisions,
That long-ago comment still impresses me for its humility and common sense. The rancher was wise enough to recognize an area in need of improvement and smart enough to address it. All of us should try to the same. (Easier said than done, of course, at least for me.)
With that in mind, I respectfully suggest the following should be on the already lengthy spring to-do list of area agriculturalists. Many of you are practicing them already, but a reminder can't hurt.
Watch, listen to and learn from your successful peers. Whether you're a farmer or rancher or agronomist or equipment dealer or anything else ag-related, successful people in your line of work are an invaluable resource.
That's certainly true for me. I've learned a great deal from other journalists who belong to North American Agricultural Journalists, the professional group for U.S. and Canadian ag journalists, and I learn something nearly every day from my Agweek colleagues.
Avoid 'the echo chamber'
We live in an amazing time in which technology, including social media, has become increasingly important. Trouble is, some people rely too heavily on social media for information. A handful of web sites and chat rooms provide them with virtually all their information on a particular issue.
That's not wise. That's not healthy. It leads to what's known as the "echo chamber" — listening only to people who share your views, thus reinforcing what you already believe. Avoid the echo chamber; take in information from multiple sources.
There are reports that the coronavirus vaccination campaign isn't going well in large chunks of rural America, that many people who live there are skeptical of the vaccine and have refused to get the shots. This, at least in part, is another example — a particularly dangerous one — of relying too heavily on social media for information.
But the clear scientific consensus is that vaccination is the smart, right thing to do. So, please, if you haven't done it already, get vaccinated. By the time you read this, I'll have received my second vaccination shot, thank goodness.
Enjoy the busy times
Yes, calving and lambing are mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. Yes, spring planting is daunting, draining and demanding. And, yes, calving/lambing and planting seasons can be just as tough for other essential and never-should-be-overlooked agriculturalists such as veterinarians, grain elevator employees and seed dealers, among many others
But if you chose to go into ag, you signed up for a highly cyclical career. Working long days at certain times of the year is simply part of the job description.
Most farmers, ranchers and others in ag do enjoy the busy times. I've visited with countless ag producers and ag-support people who were sagging with fatigue, but nonetheless had a gleam in their eyes. They work in ag because they like it, and that sustains them no matter how busy the season becomes.
And the perennial priority ...
For many years I thought that turning a profit is the most important thing in ag. But eventually I realized it's in second place. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than the safety of yourself and your family, employees and co-workers.
Agriculturalists understand the importance of safety. They focus on safety. But slipping for just one moment can lead to disaster. So, please, no matter how busy or tired you become, never forget the need to stay safe.
For all of you involved in calving and lambing and soon to be active in spring planting:
Learn from your peers. Beware the echo chamber. Get vaccinated. Enjoy the busy times. And stay safe!