Now is the time for contemplation

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“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

— Abraham Lincoln

It looks as though our glorious Indian summer is over for another year, as harsh winds carry blowing snow outside my window. I find myself dreading winter more than I have in a very long time, and I realize that is no way to live.

As Will Rogers said, “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” Well said.

This is the time of year we can draw ourselves inward a bit. We need to value time spent with a good book, or time mesmerized by the fire in the good old fireplace.

Slow down

We spend so much of our lives hurrying and scurrying to get all sorts of jobs done. When the first snow flies, it is our best excuse to slow down, to do some serious contemplation.

Within the past few days, I have had the pleasure of visiting with two life-long farmers. One, a man in his early 60s, and the other a fellow who is 75. Both have said this winter they plan to do a whole lot of thinking and analyzing about just how much farming they are going to do next year.

“I never thought I’d be saying this, but I might even go bigger, since I’ve had the chance to rent some farm ground,” the one fellow told me.

But, he added, “The whole game has been changed. I never thought I would see these kinds of prices, but the inputs just keep going up and up and up. A man has to play it smart. There may be more money to be made, but there is more money to be lost, too.”

He also said making the decision of just how much to contract of a certain crop at a certain price is the most frustrating decision of them all. Costs of seed and fertilizer, added to the costs of diesel fuel, can cripple a farm’s cash flow, no matter how well established that particular ag business might be.

Today’s scenario

Today’s farmland scenario reminds me of the early to mid-1980s, though frighteningly high interest rates compounded the problems we all witnessed then. A farm might find its debt to asset ratio turning upside down through no fault of its own, and securing operating funds to stay in business suddenly became a roll of the dice.

I was writing for the local daily newspaper at that time, and covered a local protest in which farmers gathered at the town square and marched to the agricultural lending agency east of town. The frantic worry I saw on the faces of many long-established farmers spoke volumes.

Sheriff’s sale notices were being posted with a horrifying regularity. The farmers who survived those trying times are now faced with decisions which will determine their own future once again.

Great quote

I close with a great quote by Paul Harvey. “In times like these it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”

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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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