Be constructively thankful this year

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farmer

In the season of Thanksgiving, we gravitate to each other to express gratitude for blessings of all kinds. It feels good to be thankful and to be with grateful people. I hope that as you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, you take the time to meditate on the blessings in your life and on the farm and it fills you with satisfaction.

When listing our many blessings, we often skip expressing thankfulness for the learning experiences gained through less-than-perfect scenarios. Yet, I think those scenarios are often more worthy of recognition than our obvious successes because, through challenges, we grow.

Constructive thankfulness

Along with your lists of blessings, I suggest making a list of things that went less than perfectly in your operation this season, recognizing lessons learned in the process and identifying ways to improve moving forward. It sounds a lot like “constructive criticism,” but I prefer to think of it as “constructive thankfulness.”

Here are some examples:

“I am thankful that our new hayfield made 100 round bales this year. Next year, I’ll fertilize after first cutting and aim for 150 bales.”

“I am thankful I signed up for the spotted knapweed program so that I could get my herbicide cost reimbursed. Next year, I’ll scout for new seedlings and treat them in the rosette stage.”

“I’m thankful I had enough pasture for my animals to graze from March to September. Next year, I’ll stockpile some tall fescue and try to graze until December.”

With constructive thankfulness, you can turn shortcomings into goals. All managers have room for improvement in their operations, but if you only focus on what needs to be improved, you will miss out on the joy and impact of what you already have and why you do what you do. Reflecting on your purpose and celebrating your successes will keep you motivated to improve. 

Record keeping

To effectively track your successes and shortcomings, record keeping is essential. Day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year, keeping track of what management strategies were employed, how, and why, is critical for the health and wellness of our animals, our pastures,our families and our economic standing. 

If you do not have a record-keeping system you like, find one without delay. Your system should allow you to document and track the following information:

  • Farm maps, including property lines, fence lines, water sources, access points, and buildings;
  • Equipment inventory and values;
  • Fuel inventory and cost;
  • Weather conditions;
  • Types of crops and acreage planted;
  • Any products applied to crops; 
  • Types, number and weight of animals;
  • Any product fed, applied or administered to the animals;
  • Breeding records;
  • Sales records;
  • Crop and feed storage inventory,
  • Authorized farm personnel roles and contact information;
  • Insurance documents;
  • Tax documents;
  • Emergency contact information;

Depending on your operation, you may need more or fewer categories.

There are templates available for written records kept in a notebook, digital records kept on the computer, and mobile apps designed to use on your phone. Using a combination of multiple systems may be helpful. 

For assistance finding a record-keeping method that works for you, reach out to your local OSU Extension personnel for advice. We can also help you set realistic goals for improvement.

At a time when less than 2% of our population are farmers, we are especially thankful that there are still people who dedicate their lives to feeding others. We at OSU Extension are here to help you get through the day-to-day and improve along the way. 

Providing resources for record-keeping is just one way we can say, “Thank you!” 

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The author is an OSU Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Noble County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.

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