Looking for brainy farm solutions


In sympathy with son Jon’s preparation for the Ohio sixth grade proficiency test, I just took an online “hemispheric dominance” test.

No, it wasn’t the latest geography quiz, but a simple 19-question screening to determine which “side” of my brain is in control.

My husband would argue “neither.”

This popular science theory says we all rely more heavily on one side of our brain than the other. The left side is the seat of language and processes things in a logical and sequential order. The right side is more visual and processes intuitively, holistically and randomly.

I thought I’d come out fairly “even-brained.” After all, my job requires objectivity (left brain) and creativity (right brain); logic (left brain) and being able to see the whole picture (right brain).

It turns out I lean so far to the right that it’s a wonder my head isn’t in a perpetual tilt. I have very little left-brain dominance. Sixteen of my 19 responses pointed to the right.

In scanning the literature, however, I learned that my right-brain tendency is not an absolute. I can train my brain to inch back to the center and even stray into the left side. The right-brain in me may be my comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t develop my left brain – like exercising unused muscles.

By the numbers. What really prompted this brain freeze was a look at a mind-numbing bunch of numbers: Ohio farm income for 2001; unemployment figures; economic growth predictions; farm export projections; per capita food consumption.

Someone once said, “The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.”

Here are the numbers; I wish I could offer insight.

* U.S. net farm income fell 29 percent in 2002.

* Net cash income (the income left over to pay living expenses, capital costs and to service debts) was at its lowest level in 2002 since the mid-1980s.

* During 2002, hog prices were generally below break-even.

* The all-milk price in 2003 is forecast at about $11.60 per cwt., the lowest since 1978.

* Nationally, U.S. livestock receipts fell $10.5 billion in 2002.

* In 2001, government payments to Ohio farmers represented 65 percent of net farm income. That’s up from 61.4 percent in 2000.

* China, the former Soviet Union, India, Argentina and Brazil exported 30 million tons of grain and soybeans in 1994/95, accounting for 13 percent of global exports.

This marketing year, they will export more than 100 million tons and account for 38 percent of global trade.

Albert Einstein once said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

If ever there was a time to for whole-brain thinking, it is now. Things are not just left-side, logical black and white. Conversely, you can’t just farm right-side, intuitively.

Study your operation. Look at the big picture; examine the details. Question tradition, question comfortable practices, question everything.

Talk to others. What are they doing? What works? What doesn’t? Look around. Read. Change ideas and change them again.

Enlist outside help. Your vet knows your operation. So does your feed guy. So do your employees, your family and your spouse. Listen.

Use both sides of your brain.

* * *

Still lost. Speaking of brains, my mind was so befuddled from going around in circles at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky., that in last week’s column, I moved Lowellville, Ohio, from Mahoning County to Trumbull County. My apologies.


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