I was trying to think of some catchy way to tie this article to the Olympics. Unfortunately, nothing popped into my mind as I sat here staring at my computer… at least not the way I planned. Then suddenly it struck me, Olympic athletes train endlessly, work with a passion to be the best they can be at that one given moment. They may only have a few chances between one, two or maybe three Olympics plus other national and international competitions.
Farmers Feed the World
In ways we’re all like these Olympic athletes… us, our farmer neighbors, all of us. Whatever we do, we have a limited number of chances to “get it right!” Several years ago I read a book by Howard Buffett titled, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.” His premise was that farmers had about 40 productive years, 40 chances to help solve the problem of global hunger. However, it is easy to carry this concept to anyone, regardless of their calling in life.
While Olympians have a much shorter window to achieve all they can, at least in their chosen Olympic sport, we all have limited opportunities to be our best, to make a difference. And while Olympians strive for medals, personal or team recognition, and national pride, we all strive to be the best at whatever we do. One thing American farmers do best is feed a hungry world. Each farmer feeds an average of 165 people! This is crucial when current estimates are we will need to solve how to feed nine billion people (two billion more than our current world population) by 2050.
Thank a Farmer!
Well, that certainly wasn’t the introduction I had in mind when I sat down at my computer, but I think it’s something that’s important to remember. Farmers strive to make a living to support their families as we all do. But in a larger sense, they are making a difference for people around the world. Be sure to thank a farmer this year on March 20, National Ag Day! As I think about farmers and growing up on a farm, an old Will Rogers quote came to mind, "The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer."
What's Happening on the Farm
Now, what I’m really supposed to be writing about… what is happening on the farms around us. Last year was easy, I could write about anything and it was all new. This year I have to think a little harder to make sure I’m not just repeating last year’s article.
Calving and lambing are in full swing for many farmers. One of my favorite things each day as I drive to and from work is passing a neighbor who has the cutest calves chasing each other around the feedlot, waiting for the day when they’ll get turned out on green pasture.
Another thing many farmers have done is attend additional training on the use of specific herbicides. A lot of people, farmers and acreage owners, had damage from a new herbicide program that was released in 2017. The EPA stepped in developed stricter guidelines regarding the use of these products this year. I’ve been teaching pesticide applicator training for over 40 years and these are the most stringent guidelines I’ve ever seen. Nobody wants to see herbicide injury and hopefully this will reduce the frequency and severity of any damage in 2018.
The other thing many farmers are doing is taking a close look at their potential expenses, cash flow sheets, and marketing plan for the coming year. Farmers that only produce crops have been caught in a situation where commodity prices have been in a relatively narrow range the past three years and prices are much lower than they were five or six years ago. Diversified farmers that also have livestock in their operations are doing a little better.
March is the time when many farmers are finalizing their plans for the coming cropping season and making sure everything is in working order so when planting conditions are favorable in April, they will be ready to go. Many of us on an acreage will, or should, be doing the same thing… getting ready to store the snow blower (I’d wait a few weeks on that… just saying!) and making sure our lawnmower, tillers, edgers, and other equipment we use around the acreage in the summer have been serviced, sharpened, cleaned and are ready to go when we need them.
Food for Early Spring Pollinators
Any column of mine wouldn’t be complete without a thought or two on pollinators. One task many homeowners have at the top of their “To Do” list is controlling dandelions. I’d suggest you keep dandelions mowed so they don’t go to seed and spread, but postpone control measures until fall. Dandelions (and other perennial broadleaf lawn weeds) are much easier to control in the fall.
But another reason to postpone their control is they are one of the few plants that offers an early season pollen source for these insects. This way you can tell the person that would like your lawn to resemble a golf course that there really is a good reason to let them bloom! Let me know how that works for you. My wife will say I’m just being lazy… but I don’t think she reads this so I’m probably OK, for now.
This can be a “drab” time of year for those living outside the city limits, but take heart, spring is right around the corner. Good luck to everyone as you plan for the months ahead, stay warm, avoid the mud, and most of all… have fun on your acreage!