Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Year In, Year Out

by Karen Jones,Growmark

The early ‘80s. 1988. 2003. 2009. 2019.

Mention any of these around an Illinois farmer – the high interest rates of the 1980s, the drought of ’88; floods in 1993 and 2003; a very late harvest in ’09 --  and you’ll likely get a story.

And 2019? When the ball dropped in Times Square at midnight on December 31, many of us in agriculture had that “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” kind of feeling. We’re all crossing our collective fingers that 2020 is a “normal” year.

You know, a year when we get that perfect window in the spring to plant our crops at just the right time. The one where we get rain when we need it, not too much, not too little, and definitely not while we have hay waiting to be baled. The year when our sows have healthy litters of pigs and our cows calve easy, around 10:00 on a sunny Tuesday morning. When our combine runs perfectly all fall, there are no lines at the elevator, and the Board of Trade is in our favor. And we’re all done with field work by Thanksgiving.

When people outside of production agriculture think about farming, a scene like that one usually comes to mind, a thought echoed by President Dwight Eisenhower: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

But in reality, farmers have always understood they have little control over so many things that can make or break their year. Weather, markets, livestock health issues, land prices, even politics affect our day-to-day lives, to the point where you might wonder why the two percent of us who farm do!

We farm because it’s in our blood. We take pride in knowing we help produce food, fiber, and fuel not just for our fellow Americans but for people around the world. We enjoy using new technology, like plant genetics that provide an edge when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, or imaging tools that can alert us to crop diseases or pest issues in our fields faster. We desire to care for our land and livestock, and leave it to future generations better than we inherited it.  

As we celebrate National Ag Day, let’s join together to recognize all American farmers, and thank them for their dedication to safe, affordable, and abundant production year in and year out.

Karen Jones is the Youth and Young Producer Specialist for GROWMARK, a cooperative providing agriculture and energy products and services headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois. She and her husband are also part of the fourth generation on her family’s farm, raising corn, soybeans, and a few hogs in central Illinois.