Friday, June 22, 2012

Farming Isn't Fun Anymore

Farming isn't fun anymore.  They have taken all of the fun out of it.  I hear this often now and feel it myself.  Why is that?

Farming has become a very techical, highly staged business now.  We are dealing with numbers that are 3-4 times larger per acre than just 8 years ago when we bought this farm.

The first thing that "technified" farming for me was genetically modified seed.  What is it, what does it do, is that what I should plant?  "They" lured us in with "one pass" weed control, no insecticide needed in the corn planter and a whole bunch of ways.

Really that was falsehood right up front.  We quickly learned you should never give up your residueal herbicide with a genetically modified system.  That failed within 10 years here.  Bt corn is similar, you can't put all that insect pressure on a corn gene.  It can't handle it.

Then economies went crazy.  We saw land double in price which doubled the rents, too.  Soon farmers like me had to go to the bank for operating loans who never had before.  I am not sure we were ready for the big numbers farming requires today.

"$800 per acre to raise an acre of corn" hit the news this spring.  That is a lot of money to raise corn.  Yes, you can do it a little cheaper but not much.  You throw in a record screwy April like we had in Ohio and this widespread drought across the cornbelt and suddenly we have more money on the table on every farm than the biggest gamblers in Las Vegas.

Soybean seed went from ten dollars a bag to $40 plus in the time I have been here.  I am 8 years older and trying to enjoy grandpahood and I feel like I am gambling my family income on my passion for a nice crop.  Maybe it is just the times, maybe it is just my age, but "they" have really taken the fun out of farming.

"They" is all of us but I guess I am pointing the finger at every person and company and government and organization with their dreams, demands and dogged attitudes. If I am pointing fingers, some are pointing at me, too.

Everything the farmer needs had turned into gold from land to machinery to seed to fertilizer.  It is all big stakes now and many of us spend enough in one year for a nice retirement, just to try and make a 5% return on our money.

I am not crying and I am whining.  I am just stating a fact.

Farming has always been an important business, the very basis of society and now it is very high stakes.

It is not for the weak of heart or the impoverished, for sure. The beautiful Massey combine from Canada represents the high cost of farming to me. It cost half that farm I wrote about last week.

Ed Winkle


  1. "They" couldn't care less how miserable everyone is. They just want control of our money and our lives.

  2. The worst insanity is that on one hand, you know that entrant costs are forever rising, but farmers have absolutely zero control on the sale price of grain, milk or meat. I don't know any other profession that works this way. It basically means you cannot have a business plan as a farmer, not even mentioning the uncertainties of the weather. If you plan for worst case scenario only to be on the safe side, it won't even cover the $800/acre it costs to grow say, corn.

    Although in recent years grain has fared rather well thanks to the speculation on "commodities".
    Unfortunately, "thanks to" might be inappropriate for African or Asian countries who need to import a lot of grain, but that's another problem...