Differentiating Between “Challenges” and “Problems”

Larry JaniceMy wife, Janice, and I were having a discussion last week about the time of our lives when we will no longer be working.  With us being in our sixties, Janice thinks retirement planning is a problem that needs to be solved immediately.  Feeling like I’m not much over 40, I believe retirement is a challenge that I still have time to address.  After all, I’m still making career plans.  I’m opening a seed dealership for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, and I’d like to actually build a new set of hog buildings for myself.  I built hundreds of modern hog buildings when I operated my own construction business, but the last one I built on my own property was in the 1970s – and I haven’t used it in 20 years.

Because I’m making future plans for my farm, last week I attended the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers’ annual “Farming for the Future” conference with the theme of “Doing Things Right.”  We all  know farming for the future can be a real challenge, especially given our current political and regulatory climate.  The real problem, in my opinion, is the last few years have been profitable for farmers.

“Often, the worst decisions are made during the best of times,” said Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, who was serving as the keynote speaker at last week’s conference.  “When you’re rolling along, you get complacent and forget about the basics.  But always remember that you can’t simply grow your way to wealth.”

Dr. Kohl reminds us that farming has always been a game of cycles: Good weather, bad weather. Good prices, bad prices.  The cycle will continue, he said.  But for the farmers who can channel their emotions while managing their operations, there will be more opportunities than ever in the years ahead!

Churchill_QuoteWhile farming is very competitive, capital intensive and risky, it’s also enjoyable.  There is so much to be made… and long as you’re looking for a challenge and enjoy solving problems.  Farming reminds me of this quote by Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”The hope of future opportunities in agriculture led to a sold-out crowd last week inside the Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus.  Farmers packed the room to listen to a panel discussion on “Emerging Opportunities in Iowa Agriculture.” On-farm dairy processing, calving under roof and niche pork production.  There was even talk about raising fish in Iowa.  If you are interested in the content but weren’t able to attend, video from the conference will be available soon. You can also sign up for an e-newsletter.

Challenges keep me going.  But as much I hate to admit it, Janice makes a good point about my age!