This realist says not to expect too much from 2021

You can be glad to say goodbye to 2020, but at the same time you can be realistic that the promises of 2021, including better crop prices, don't mean everything will be perfect.

Changing from one year to the next won't change anything if you don't learn from the past, Jenny Schlecht says. (Pixabay photo)

I heard a lot of talk in the past few weeks wishing "good riddance" to the year 2020. I get it. It was a rough one. But I also hope no one really thinks anything changes by flipping a calendar page.

My dad told me he heard a report that some historians had ranked 2020 as the eighth-worst year in U.S. history. Some of the ones they put ahead seemed maybe not quite as bad as 2020 but there were others that seemed like they could have been put there that weren’t. For instance, it seems like the entire decade of the 1930s was pretty horrific. I can’t even imagine the whining that would happen if the population of today was plopped down in the Great Depression or the years of either world war.

On the whole, we’ve said goodbye to a bad year. But maybe the most important thing we can do is learn from it and keep our expectations for 2021 in check.

That sounds kind of cynical, but I prefer realistic as a label for my thought process. That was a regular remark by my Grandpa Bob — he was neither an optimist nor a pessimist but was, instead, a realist.

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, but Grandpa Bob’s philosophy makes more sense to me now and probably keeps me from flying too high or crashing too hard. By the time anyone reads this, I will have added a year to my age. I realized I had reached a truly remarkable milestone the other day when my children groaned at my choice of music in the car. I prefer country music of the 1980s and ‘90s — my childhood, basically — to today’s music. They, being young people now and not when I was, already feel I’m hopelessly out of touch.


They might be right, but I’m OK with that. The years have given me insight into what those songs I used to sing along with actually mean and the confidence to like what I like and not sway with the crowds, even if the crowds are slightly judgmental 4- and 8-year-olds.

And if the insights gained through years lived make me feel a little cynical from time to time, I just remind myself I’m a realist.

One thought I keep having about 2021 is that the fast-rising crop prices won’t bring all good. There will be neighbors trying to push out neighbors to gain a few more acres. There will be farmers who spend the gains of “beans in the teens” before it hits their pockets. And eventually, the prices will go back down, leaving some people terribly shocked that what’s happened before has happened again.

That’s a horribly cynical way of looking at what is definitely a good thing — crop prices increasing to profitable levels. But the years have repeated this kind of cycle, and I have a hard time not reflecting on the realism that good prices can lead to bad outcomes.

We’re coming off not just a single bad year but a streak of them. It took 2020 to make us somewhat forgetful of the disaster of 2019 weather . And the price situation has been tough pretty much since it stopped being good half a decade ago.

We can be glad 2020 is over. But we also have to be realistic that a new year is not a panacea for what ails us, and hard times will come again. Be realistic about that, and perhaps the next year that earns the “bad” designation won’t seem quite as disastrous.

To read more of Jenny Schlecht's The Sorting Pen columns, click here.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at or 701-595-0425.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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