Dear Young Farmer

by James Banahan

by James Banahan

Remember the Dodge commercial from a few years ago with the tag line “so God made a farmer”? It stuck a chord with most of us I believe. Last week, I read an open letter by a Minnesota farmer that struck a similar chord with me, particularly as a “millennial” in this industry.  It hit close to home and echoes and addresses many things I’m hearing the country from young and old producers alike.  The letter as a whole is excellent and you can read it in its entirety HERE.  Below are a few excepts that were particularly relevant to the discussions we’ve been having and a few personal notes on what it means for us here and now.

“Know your cost of production. This is nothing new to you. But now, more than ever, it’s important to really understand what it costs you to produce that bushel of corn or soybeans… 

Face the reality that you will not be making the same profits you have in the past few years. This doesn’t mean you will never make these profits again, it just means it won’t happen for a while.  

You may need to do some things differently. Find ways to become more efficient. In the end, it’s times like these that will make you a better farmer.”

This is really the discussion that we have been having for the last year.   We have to get better at producing bushels effectively.  Our RD series and your FSA have been dedicated to bringing you new (and good) products and ideas, but a fixation on cost has hindered buy-in on some of the best products and ideas like growth promoters and nitrogen stabilizers.  I’ll give you that cost is important, but I think that we’re yet to fully wrap our heads around what a fixation on cost can cost us.  As the letter says, “it’s important to really understand what it costs you to produce” but also “you may need to do some things differently.  Find ways to become more efficient.”

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“Keep open communication with your lender and suppliers. Never stop building those relationships.”

This is a key for all of us.  If you are uneasy with some of the ideas that we are bringing to the farm, challenge us on it, please!  But also, listen to what we have to say with open ears instead of a closed check book.  Be honest with your FSA if you are only going to spend X amount of dollars this year, then let us help you decide how to spend those dollars in a way that offer the best chance at return.

“Sign up for a marketing class or financial workshop. Educating yourself will benefit you now and in the future. Again, this will make you a better farmer.”

Part of what CVA does every day is try to figure out ways to help make you more profitable.  If there is something that you know you need help with or need better understanding of how to do something yourself, let us know!  This is your company—use every resource that you can.

“Be patient and have trust. You will get through this. In five years, farming will be different than it is today. You may need to make some tough decisions, but in the end, you and your farming business will be better because of it. Take some time for yourself and your family. And always remember what is really important in your life, which is your faith, friends and family.”

I just really like this part.  We all got into agriculture because it was fun.  Is it going to be tough?  Most likely.  Can it still be fun? Undoubtedly.  But only if we make it that way.