We appreciate the needs and circumstances of farmers and take a long-term, relationship-oriented approach. We have the flexibility to structure leases to fit a wide array of situations and circumstances with an eye toward aligning our interests. Our sensibilities are founded on our own personal farms.
The first advertisement in farm magazines is usually a seed promising 10 more bushels per acre, followed by an insecticide that’s proven to add 8.5 bushels per acre, then a story about fertilizer placement that gains 12 bushels per acre, then an ad about a planter attachment worth 7 bushels per acre, and by the last page we have accumulated yield improvement promises worth many times what is physiologically possible. Beyond the outright falsehoods, some of the inputs and practices may work, but only when they address the most limiting resource to yield. None of them work all the time. Each little thing we do in the field interacts with each other little thing. There is path dependence – the timing and order matter. And it all interacts with, and is dominated by, weather, which means the recipe in one year will not necessarily work in the next.
We have farmed through droughts, hail, floods, and frost, sometimes in back-to-back seasons, sometimes all in one season. The moral judgment we put on ourselves is to execute good decisions for the probabilities before the fact. It would show shallowness of character to gloat after the happenstance of weather favors our decisions, and we buck up when the smart and responsible choice was made wrong by chance.
Avoiding the cost of non-limiting resources also has a place in farm management efforts. Opportunity cost is especially acute in farming, and we are as proud of our decisions to avoid some technologies as we are about our decisions to create new technologies. We happily pass on most variable rate technology, real-time nitrogen sensors, and those big data efforts that use error-filled data and poor models to address, at best, minor problems – the pinpricks around the edges.
We agree with Abraham Cowley who wrote in his 1650 essay, “Of Agriculture,” that there is no other life so praiseworthy for “the utility of it, to a man’s self; the usefulness, or rather necessity, of it to all the rest of mankind; the innocence, the pleasure, the antiquity, the dignity.” The majority of people who have ever lived have farmed for a living, and in the hierarchy of these craftsmen, the best carry the culminated wisdom of this fellowship.
Stewardship of farming communities means supporting local retailers. We like communities that have multiple competitive sources for machinery, seed, chemicals, fertilizers, insurance, fuel, and farm services and multiple competitive buyers of farm outputs. Farms in those communities can sustain a high number of farmers and they have a high percentage of business owners. They have strong schools and churches, high social capital with low crime, and an engaged citizenry. They are wonderful places to live.