My wife and I live in a small town in north-central Oklahoma; very agricultural, very rural and relatively poor.
We notice the thin state of the local economy even more over the last year since my wife, who has worked much of her adult life as a floral designer and manager, opened a flower and gift shop in town. We knew it would be tough, since it takes potentially 10,000 population to really make a floral operation fly and since our hometown is only 2,500. But I think we've been shocked at how few residents actually shop with us, versus how many go to the major discount stores in the next town, and moreover by how little money there seems to be in our little town.
I pondered this and much more in my spare time over the Thanksgiving holiday, and arrived at the same place I always do after such ruminations. We could have a lot more wealth in agricultural communities if we just made the decision.
That's because for the first time in human existence, we have the knowledge to make more profit in farming and ranching, at the same time we improve the soil so our operations are more resilient, and to make the land more productive at the same time we decrease our input costs. But it takes learning and effort. Not work -- effort.
The old ways are more difficult, fraught with failure and demanding of restarts and a bent back. The new ways take more thinking, more planning, more execution and less back-breaking labor.
For example, North Dakota pioneer cover-crop farmer and grazier Gabe Brown recently told Dakota Farmer his breakeven cost on dryland corn was $1.42 per bushel in 2013. That includes land, planting, harvest, trucking costs — everything. On the flip side, his yields are higher than average and his cover-crop grazing helps add even more profit.
So why don't we choose the higher path?
Because we humans fear and loathe change. I have come to believe from my lifetime experiences and observations that we fear change more than we desire good things.
Yet, as I've said and written about for many, many years, we could have it all.
If you're new to this column and/or this site, I'm offering a review of some of my key articles on these topics. Also, you can search for and read the blogs of Walt Davis, R.P. Cooke, and Jaime "Jim" Elizondo on BeefProducer.com for more.
• Gen Goven at 345% of original stocking rate in North Dakota: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/BeefProducer/BP01Jan09/bp07.pdf
• Gabe Brown's amazing input decreases and profit increases: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/BeefProducer/BP08Aug09/bp10.pdf and
• High profits from high-stock-density grazing on multi-species cover crops: http://beefproducer.com/blogs-working-livestock-nature-build-bigger-profits-9646
• Triple stocking rate with cows more than triples profits: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/BeefProducer/BP01Jan14/bp02.pdf
• Triple stocking rate with stockers triples profits:
My dream is that one day, agricultural people will see how to improve upon the things they're already good at, to build up the land they hold instead of just trying to maintain it, and to reap vastly larger profits and grow their communities instead of watching them die.