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  • Gene Witte

My 41st Chance

Welcome to 2016, and you KNOW it will be another exciting year. I can’t wait to get back and start working on the planter and getting things ready for spring planting. The title of this post is prompted from the book by Howard G. Buffett titled 40 chances and how most of us in farming have about 40 chances to plant a crop.

The title of this post is relevant in that this will be my 41st cropping season. The fact that I started right out of high school will maybe allow me the chance at number 50 or 51. As I think about the future I wonder what will happen to the farms that I have had the chance or privilege to manage under my care. In 40 cropping seasons I have progressed from conventional to no-till and strip till with cover crops. I have long term soil test data on most farms. I have started to see some improvements in organic matter levels as a long term trend. As a measure of soil health or soil productivity, organic matter and CEC (cation exchange capacity) are the two measures I look at. Forty seasons is a long time to affect change. Naturally the gains that I have made or think I have made would be smart to build on. So what happens with the next cycle of 40 chances?

From the SWCD and NRCS perspective there has been educational field days and equipment rental offerings made available to demo. There have been cost share programs available to all farmers to help promote the shift in fertility management, equipment, and the personnel management it takes to move to a conservation system. So again what happens with the next cycle of 40 chances? What will the next generation face? Will it be more educational and cost share programs or will it be mandated laws with stiff penalties? It’s this generational shift that I feel is important to continuing the gains in conservation that have been made from the money already spent.

Any farmer that is nearing that 40th chance and is still farming successfully must be doing

something right. Back in the 80’s some did not survive the decline in land values and double digit interest rates. So having a conservative business plan that preserves profitability usually means that farmers are not over applying crop nutrients or chemicals or farming the land in a way that would totally degrade that asset. What goes around comes around. This is referring to where we are at in the cycle now. Land prices are high, crop prices are low, inputs high relative to profitability. The conservative farmer will still survive.

I’m still excited to start that 41st chance. I’ve included a review from the book 40 chances. The 5 points really hit the mark when describing a CONSERVA (TIVE) TION type farmer .

40 Chances is more than a book. It's a message with five empowering principles we can use every day:

Principle No. 1 - Roots: Seize opportunities that excite you, even if they start out seemingly small.

Principle No. 2 - Bravery: From time to time, you've got to do something you don't necessarily know how to do.

Principle No. 3 - Lessons: Harvest the right lessons and don't fear mistakes; grow from each of your efforts.

Principle No. 4 - Challenges: Sometimes our resources and expertise do not match the needs of a given situation, so we have to be adaptable.

Principle No. 5 - Hope: Make the most of your 40 Chances today, while preparing for the future - know that you're spending your chances wisely.

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