This occupation of farming has always had, as one of its characteristics, the element of uncertainty. Weather is the main uncertainty, but so are markets, whether domestic or international, and our own government’s policies toward agriculture.
We will deal with the uncertainty and most of the time we will come through it ready for the next year. It becomes part of the planning that is done every year whether we are trying to pick the right time to make sales or replace equipment or expand the operation.
Everyone has his own idea of how much risk he wants to assume. We all know people who will fearlessly plunge in, while across the road is someone who is averse to risk, preferring a low-key approach.
There are certainly advantages to each side. When the risk takers win, they win big. However, when they lose, they can lose big. Those who take lower risks move at a slower pace almost as if they were always ready for a worst case scenario. When tough times arrive, they are ready because hunkering down was part of their plan.
Most everyone operates somewhere between the extreme optimism of the plunger and the extreme pessimism of the one who believes the end is near. It is one of the conditions farming has in common with other businesses, whether you run a retail business, such as a hardware store, or perform a service by creating a product, from manufacturing parts to ethanol.
I watch the ethanol plant across the road. Each day there is corn coming in and ethanol and DDGs leaving. They are always making ethanol day after day, month after month. If corn is high-priced and ethanol is cheap, they certainly will ride it out as long as they can until things improve. That would be the nature of any business.
To compare it to farming, suppose they bought their corn in the spring and sold their ethanol in the fall and into the winter. How would that affect their business plan?
The part of farming that I have not gotten used to after all these years is watching how expenses in the spring become the income in the fall. Each spring huge amounts of money are buried in the ground in the form of fertilizer, seed and herbicide. That is above the expenses that include land, machinery, insurance, fuel and taxes.
Then in the fall is the dramatic turn around when bins are filled, crops start being delivered and good times are here, well, until the bin goes empty and then we wait to fill it again.
This is a state of mind I go through every year after planting. We have just spent a huge amount of money on crop inputs. Watching buried seed become green growing plants is almost exhilarating, especially when they are doing well.
Each one of those green plants is the promise of a coming harvest when once again, if all goes right, the bins will be full. There is a lot of faith in farming, especially at this time of year.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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