Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remove the Emotion

Last night, I was chatting with a few hundred farmers from around the country in a weekly Twitter event we call "agchat". The purpose is to connect farmers with each other, and give consumers some insight as to our views on issues. Last night was sustainability, and it proved to be as interesting as I suspected it might be...

A little bit into the forum, I was struck by a comment made by a young man from Vermont. He said "Emotion, not technology, will save the family farm!". Alright, aside from the obvious, does anyone else see a problem here? Emotion clouds vision and makes you do dumb things, like buy a new car or join a band, and it's a horrible way to run a business (oh, I forgot. Family Farms apparently aren't business). But there's more to the story...

A few years ago, a piece of land my family had been farming for a few years came up for sale. It was a 260 acre single tract of land, the largest single piece left in the township. We wanted it. Bad. REALLY REALLY bad. But the asking price of over 1 million dollars was tough to stomach. My brother and I were in college, and not much help. My dad and uncle probably could have literally bet the farm and mortgaged everything to the hilt to make it work, but they didn't. And I will admit it, there were tears shed as we watched the dairy farmer who bought it rip up the crops we had planted to put in his own. But that was emotional attachment showing, and that emotion is a weakness. Emotional weakness like that causes farmers to ride a bad situation right to the bottom, instead of cutting their losses and living to fight another day.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love farming and agriculture, and so does the rest of my family. We are emotionally attached to the way of life that we all grew up with, and still live today. But when hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line every single day, there is no room for emotion. You MUST be able to step back, take a deep breath, and make an objective decision. Was it easy for us to tear down Grandpa VW's old barn? Hell no. But what were we going to do with it? It had no use, and was about to collapse on the pole barn next to it. Emotions aside, it had to go.

I'm confident in the future of American Agriculture and the Family Farm (like mine). Farmers are strong people who see the facts through the fog and make clear, rational decisions. The vision you may have of farming is probably changing, but rest assured, my vision has not.


  1. Some great points, Jeff. I stumbled upon your blog via Twitter -- a lot of great perspective. Farmers and ranchers run a hard balancing act between family and business, science and emotion. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Laura. I appriciate the feedback.