Finding Hope as the New Year Approaches

Another year is almost in the books! I’ve been farming officially for 42 “seasons,” and that number reminds me of Howard Buffet’s book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.” I have been given more than 40 chances, and I’m still hoping for more! There is still so much I’d like to do yet.

Many changes have occurred while I’ve been farming, and I believe many more exciting changes will occur as we learn how to grow higher yielding crops even more efficiently. Iowa’s farmers have doubled grain yields since 1961. As yields have increased, we’ve actually seen some decrease in the amount of nitrogen required to get those increased yields thanks to improved seed technology. Because more soil sampling has been done during the past 25 or 30 years, farmers also are doing a better job of applying only what’s needed and where it’s needed.

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs is defined as “sustainability,” and that’s certainly a buzz word today. Many practices affiliated with sustainable farming use GM crops. Overall GM crops have contributed to a 37 percent decrease in pesticide applications. Herbicide-tolerant crops allow farmers to adopt conservation tillage, which has led to improved soil health and water retention, as well as reduced chemical runoff into water ways. Improvements made to conserve soil and water have been documented. In fact, conservation practices have helped improve water quality statewide and wildlife is flourishing.

Technology has – and will continue to – define and redefine agriculture. I’ve gone from using an adding machine to using a calculator that weighed about five pounds, used eight batteries and cost $50 to using smartphones and tablets. Today’s tractors drive themselves, and drones help scout our fields. Taking care of livestock in environmentally-controlled buildings keeps them more comfortable than most people on this planet. Fresh feed, fresh water, fresh air is all computer controlled. It makes me wonder what can possibly be next!

While not knowing what to expect can leave us feeling unsettled, I prefer to look at the “unknowns” with optimism. So many agricultural improvements have occurred in the past 42 years, and I can only imagine what’s in store for us in the next 42 years!

The same can be said about the holiday season. While many of us look forward to the 25th of December, we also know that this season can be extremely stressful. Believe me, I’ve had my share of struggles over the years. Knowing my struggles have been given to me for a reason and remembering these experiences have made me who I am can have a humbling, yet calming effect.

”Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This verse reminds me that there is so much joy in this life. We are blessed that our baby granddaughter is staying with us while her dad is serving his country, and it’s been nice having our daughter home. A great granddaughter also was born in 2015, and that’s certainly been a fun, new experience.

My hope is that you also may find peace and contentment this holiday season. Choose joy!