Thursday, October 2, 2014

Are Farmers Rich?

Here is a good article Phillip Kleinhenz put on his Facebook page.  Are farmers rich?

To the average non-farmer, I suppose farmers look like they rich.  Money is just a tool to do your job and it takes lots of money to farm.  The love of money is the evil thing, not the money itself.  It's a tool to do good or bad, just like the Internet and so many things are.

I have been guilty of saying I didn't want to yell at kids for a living, I just wanted to farm.  I was raised to be anything but a farmer, though I learned all the things I needed to farm except the courage to actually make that happen.  It takes great courage and a great business sense to borrow a sum of money, make more than you borrowed and pay it back.

I was taught to fear borrowing money and live on nothing while starting the business.  I was taught how to learn and share that ability within a person's ability to learn and progress.  It took me five years to learn how to teach others in a classroom setting but it has taken my entire life to learn how to borrow a large sum of money and make enough to live on while paying it back.  It's no easy task.

Farming has always been a low margin return, 5% at best.  It is difficult to grow a farming business with those kinds of returns.  Over a lifetime of farming there are great years and terrible years but a teacher's pay is pretty stable.  I chose stability over risk and that is why I am where I am today.

A few families encourage their children to follow their path but they must have the passion to do it.  I had the passion, I didn't have the courage to take the risks while raising a family.  I admire those who have and am blessed to have what I have after 64 years.

Helping a child find their passion and a career that utilizes that passion is the hardest thing a parent or teacher will ever do.  At least it was that way for me.  It is obvious some children should farm but there isn't room for many.  It's still a low margin return.  Many farm all their lives and end up with a little more than they started with.  "Asset rich and cash poor" describes many farms and businesses.

The full time farmers I know look rich but I don't know their balance sheet.  Farms are the healthiest now in US history but a few really succeed and many still fail.

Do you have what it takes to be a full time farmer?  Very few people do.  Are farmers rich?  No, I think they are just farmers but it is a very valuable profession to the rest of us who don't farm for all their income.

The view out my window is very rich.  My balance sheet is good but says something else.

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Crazy Grandpa!

I am known in my family as the "crazy grandpa," and in this picture you can see why.  LuAnn asked me to pick up something for Tyler at Farm Science Review since we were going to his Grand Parents Day the day after the show ended.

The toy man on the SW corner was not there this year so I couldn't find any farm toys.  I basically didn't even have time to walk the review to find much of anything except certain people or companies I sought out or vice versa.

My friends at Crop Production Services gave me two of these Big Mouth Toys Beast Fist can coolers.  I thought they would make great super hero punching hands but LuAnn didn't think that was appropriate for Tyler's little gift at the Catholic school so Liam and Finn got them! 

Tyler got a child's Pioneer Seed hat which is famous in his family because his great grandpa Cleveland was a prominent Pioneer dealer in New York State.  He wore it proudly this weekend and got to drive the Mule, too!  One problem, he is like his dad, pedal to metal and full speed ahead!

My friends at Stewart Seeds gave me the smallest Stewart's Seed hat they had so Finn also ended up with it.  I can't wait to play Incredible Hulk in the basement of these two boys house.

We have some great fun in that basement but these kids are growing up too fast.  Finn will be four in two weeks and Liam will be nine in November.  Where do the years go?

Every minute is precious so give your kids a hug for me today, will ya?


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Absolutely Gorgeous Weather!

I bet the Little State Fair, the Brown County Fair at Georgetown had record crowds this year.  It was pretty packed by noon last week as many stop there for lunch.  There are so many things going on each day and the tractor pulls draw big crowds at night.

We have had a gorgeous week of weather for such activities.  Corn is drying down as fast as it can but much of it has a long way to go because some of it was planted late and the whole crop had less heat than last year.  Last year wasn't a record breaker for temperatures either, unlike the year before, the drought of 2012.

We spread a lot of gypsum this year and I got my first report this week.  A friend is shelling an old farm he's had for years and it's never produced over 180 bushels per acre before.  This year it broke 220 bushels per acre.  The farm is short in calcium and sulfur and we had enough rain this year to really make the gypsum work deep into the soil.  The roots are thicker and deeper and so are the cobs.

The late soybeans, and there are many in my area, really need a big rain event.  Nothing is forecast for the next week or the next month.  I imagine the yields on them will be disappointing but every year has its pluses and minuses.

One Ohio farmer I know delivered 165,000 bushels of new corn and 60,000 bushels of new soybeans to the market so far!  It is amazing how fast the big operations can harvest and move grain.

It looks like the weather is moderating now with highs in the 60's next week.

It's been a really nice stretch of good weather here in southwest Ohio.

Ed Winkle

Monday, September 29, 2014

Serpent Mound

On one beautiful afternoon recently I took a break from crop scouting and visited Serpent Mound south of Hillsboro.  I took the best pictures I have ever taken and I will share some here.
Serpent Mound in rural Adams County, Ohio, is one of the premier Native American earthworks in the hemisphere. Its pristine flowing form was enhanced by major reconstruction in the 1880s. That reconstruction now appears to have been the second time in its long life that Serpent Mound has shed some of its skin.
Estimates of the age of the earthwork are now radically revised as the result of a new radiocarbon analysis, suggesting that the mound is about 1,400 years older than conventionally thought. The new date of construction is estimated at approximately 321 BCE, one year after the death of Aristotle in Greece.
According to the Ohio Historical Society, the organization that manages the site in rural in southern Ohio, the mound is over 1,300 feet long, and clearly resembles an uncoiling serpent. Their website says the original purpose of the mound is unknown but was probably built by people from the Fort Ancient culture who lived in the area from 1000 to 1500 A.D. Bradley Lepper, archaeologist for the society, reports that the head of Serpent Mound appears to align with the rising sun during the summer solstice, and since the nearby Newark Earthworks have detailed astronomical alignments built into them, it is reasonable to assume that Serpent Mound does as well. Generations of researchers agree with that theory, but the intent of those who built the serpent remains a mystery. Lepper posits that Serpent Mound may have been a shrine to a spiritual power.

The mound is on the National Register of Historic Places and is being considered as a U.S. nominee to the UNESCO World Heritage sites. According to Glenna J. Wallace, chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee consider Serpent Mound a sacred site. The Eastern Shawnee were originally from Ohio but left the area along with several other tribes as part of the federal Indian Removal Act of 1830. Nine tribes removed from Ohio settled on reservations in Oklahoma; by about 1850, most had officially been “removed.” Today, there are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio. “Although we don’t claim that we built Serpent Mound, historically we respected and protected the various mounds and earthworks in Ohio,” says Wallace.

If you are interested in crop circles, you have to read this story about Serpent Mound.

If you get to Hillsboro or for some unknown reason end up in Adams County, visit Serpent Mound!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Praying Hands

I heard this great story today for the second time.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen!
In order merely to keep food on the table for this big family, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.
Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No"
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver point sketches, water-colours, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need a reminder, that no one - no one - - ever makes it alone!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Farm Science REVIEW

We enjoyed a real nice Farm Science REVIEW last week.  I capitalized REVIEW because I found this review of what happened at FSR last week.

The biggest change I noticed was moving the antique tractors from the main review area to the demo plots area.  This allowed the Review to sell more commercial spots to exhibitors which means more cash.  The move angered some antique enthusiasts so much that the familiar, excellent Oliver Farm Machinery collection did not participate this year!

The foot traffic was lowest on Tuesday, highest on Wednesday and Thursday was in-between.  All 3 were excellent weather days, though, with no rain and great weather for field demonstrations.

I worked with a synthetic gypsum distributor, explaining the benefits of gypsum and helping farmers figure out how to actually get it applied.  We have the source, we pretty much have the trucks, the problem is we don't have enough spreaders.  I took many pictures of spreaders and talked to several salesmen.

It has become a show for people who don't make their entire living on the farm.  There are so many small tractor, lawn mower, heating and other types of displays.  They do have the big machinery there though so many of the "tractor drivers" attend the show.  I wonder how many full time farmers who operate large farm operations attend?  There are not that many in the whole state so it still could be a major percentage either way.

90% of the commodities or such are produced by only 10% of the farm population so they are very important people, very busy men and women.  Thankfully there are many 100-2000 acre farms left and I feel like a large percentage of them attend.  I noticed more and more people my age though who are retired or semi retired or close to retirement.  That's just the way it is.

Unless your career demands you be at the Review or you just enjoy attending, you might be too busy to visit.  136,000 people is a lot but not compared to the population of Ohio.

I enjoyed the review, just like I did in 1968.

Ed Winkle

Friday, September 26, 2014

Net Farm Income Down 14%

Here are some things on farmers minds this fall as we start harvest.
  • Net farm income is forecast to be $113.2 billion in 2014, down 13.8 percent from 2013’s forecast of $131.3 billion. If realized, the 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but would still remain more than $25 billion above the previous 10-year annual average.
  • After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income is expected to be the highest since 1973; the 2014 net farm income forecast would be the fifth highest. Net cash income is forecast at $123 billion, down 6 percent from the 2013 forecast. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it includes the sale of more than $10 billion in carryover stocks from 2013. Net farm income reflects only earnings from current calendar-year production.
  • Total production expenses are forecast to be 4 percent higher in 2014, which would be the fifth consecutive increase since last falling in 2009.
  • Livestock receipts are expected to increase by more than 15 percent in 2014, due to a 21-percent increase in dairy, a 20-percent increase in hog, and a 15-percent increase in cattle receipts.
  • Crop receipts are expected to decrease 7 percent in 2014 ($15.2 billion), led by a $12.8-billion decline in corn receipts.
  • The elimination of direct payments under the Agricultural Act of 2014 is partially offset by higher payments for supplemental disaster assistance, resulting in a 15-percent decline in projected government payments.
  • Farm equity is projected to reach another record, despite an expected slowdown in asset growth and the expectation of higher debt levels.
  • Farm financial risk indicators such as the debt-to-asset ratio are expected to continue at historically low levels, indicating continued financial health for the sector.

Still, we are concerned about paying our bills from this year and how to keep our business profitable next year.  Many farms can weather this cash flow problem we are in but many cannot.

It's going to be an interesting next few years, especially the next few months.

Ed Winkle