The Season of Self-Evaluation

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winter planning

Photo by Catrina Rawson

The discussion and questioning came over a holiday dinner. A non-farming relative wondered why farmers would run field trials of different hybrids, nutrient strategies and herbicide approaches when the ever-varying weather could alter the result. I finally put the science and statistical analysis portion of the conversation aside and decided the motivation to test and try different scenarios stemmed from a farmer’s desire to improve, to be better at what they do.

’Tis the season for that.

After removing snow and thawing a dysfunctional cattle drinker, farm families cozy up to a heavier load of bookwork, meetings and table talk this time of year than any other. It’s the season of self-evaluation, a time to look at what worked and what didn’t in 2017. A time to budget and evaluate balance sheets. And we grudgingly take time to face the flurry of tax forms and tax preparations that precede sowing the seeds of the next crop.

As I’ve heard a leadership guru say, you’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting. And I see plenty of farmers practicing the former. The winter agenda is full of meetings, from informal farm family discussions around the kitchen table to formal regional gatherings at conference centers to help farm families like ours improve their marketing strategies, learn about evolving agronomic practices and see the latest machinery technology. Even advertisers recognize the season of self-improvement. Commercials talk about “raising the bar” with fungicide use this summer and finding a seedsman to customize the next growing season for a different experience.

Meanwhile, local agencies help farmers and landowners enhance conservation practices, often within the realm of government programs. They may work on details to adopt a new practice in the field or perhaps add a business venture simmering on the back burner for years. We evaluate the current lineup of machinery for maintenance or replacement to meet the year’s goals, some the same and some new. Final decisions on insurance to protect crop revenue approach quickly, and soon enough seed will arrive to the farm shop with most of those variety selections already made from the combine cab last fall.

This year will bring a combination of sticking with what works and trying something new in search of the next tried-and-true. The knowledge passed down from previous generations tells us our farm was shaped on both failures and successes, but we’re always aiming for the latter. Here’s hoping for a safe and successful 2018 in farm country.

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