Farming must use wits to win the day

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“There is no day like the final day whenceforth a year ends and we turn a new leaf over; we bid farewell to a year which caused us ever so much worries, constraints and concerns.”
— Diary of Thomas George, 1898

The year in the life of a farmer has always felt a bit like the hard climb to a summit, alone, without the benefit of a team of cohorts helping with the challenging ascent.

Challenge for all

Dairy farmers have long earned the admiration for their ability to survive the daily grind, no celebration for beginning nor end, as the work is never really done.

Grain farmers diversify to remain on the playing field of those in the black, but so often at enormous cost. Never is there a clear-cut path with a bell tolling to proclaim when to stay with what one has always known as a productive crop, or when to cut to something far different.

There is always the symbolic looking over the shoulder, as decisions must be made on the fly, long before weather patterns or cash crop prices can be determined or even provide a hint of guess work for the best end result.

Feeding out livestock is another hard-scrabble gamble, as feed costs and vet bills and negative pregnancy checks can bring down the balance sheet of productivity in a hurry. Always hoping to buy low, but sell when the market is high involves a whole lot of work and a big dash of luck.

When the time comes to ship, an overnight development can change everything a farmer has worked and banked on for months on end.

Wise and resourceful

A farmer must be wise enough to be wary, to ponder and predict the way the winds might blow, to see clearly enough to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

Throughout all of the hard knocks, though, an air of optimism is required in order to keep swinging at the pitches. As we close out 2014, here’s hoping for an end to the bitter and a high dose of sweet in 2015.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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