Do you ever toss and turn for an hour or more worried about something related to the farm before you get to sleep? Be honest! Or do you wake up at 3 a.m. concerned about something coming up the next day or a big problem? Maybe you wake up and have the answer for it. Maybe you wake up and still are stuck wishing you had an answer.
The very first question Jim Mintert asked the panel of new Master Farmers at the Master Farmer banquet recently was what kept them up at night. Mintert is an ag economist by trade, and currently is associate director of Extension at Purdue University in charge of agriculture and natural resources.
Fred Whitford, an Honorary Master Farmer and director of Purdue Pesticide Programs, was quick to answer. "I stay wake when I run into a problem and I can't find a solution," he says. "My job in Extension is to help farmers find answers. When I can't do that, it frustrates me."
What Whitford typically does is keep searching until he finds the answer, although it may not be that night! He says many of his now 100-plus Extension publications resulted from a farmer asking a question that he couldn't answer. In the process of solving it and finding the answer, he decided to share the information with everyone else as well.
"It's often the weather," says Tammi Unger, who farms with her husband Del near Carlisle. And she has a right to say that. They received 10 inches in 11 days late last month, creating ponding everywhere. In the entire summer of 2012, they receive three tenths of an inch.
Del continues. "That all leads to, 'how do we manage risk?'," he says. "It becomes a challenge. We don't want to remove all the risk because we still want the opportunity to succeed when things go right, but risk management is a challenge."