Across the Editor's Desk: March 2008
Steve and Jan Boender of Oskaloosa, Iowa, are longtime friends of mine. They are parents of six children and have seven grandchildren. Three sons live nearby and they, along with twin sons still in high school, are involved in the Boenders' farming, seed sales, and custom work businesses.
Steve is a humble, thoughtful and respected leader. A new era of prices caused him to reflect recently on his values and farming heritage. In December, he put his thoughts on paper for his children. He shared his paper with me, and I am pleased that he will let me share it with you. I'm confident that the values Steve writes about are ones that you embrace, too. Here's what he wrote.
"I was prompted to think about how I would react to selling $14 soybeans. A long time ago, I had an uncle tell me that having a surplus of money brought with it way more problems than not having enough. At the time I had never experienced discretionary spending beyond just making ends meet. We have always had enough, although there were times when I could not see over the next hill and others helped us.
"Born in the 1950s, all I remember about the '60s was helping my dad farm and dreaming about farming on my own. I met the farm girl of my dreams in the '70s. Her only negative was that she was raised on green tractors. I was raised on red ones! We married, had kids, and survived several droughts. Life was good, and I thought I was bulletproof.
"Things changed in the '80s. Interest rates of 17% played havoc on our energetic, expanding farming operation. A very sharp pencil was required. The norm was $2 corn and $5 beans. Low grain prices brought positive possibilities for livestock. But while friends were expanding into new hog confinements, I was struggling to keep hogs alive.
"My pencil was not sharp enough and seemed on the verge of breaking. Realizing that no matter how many hours I worked I was not going to get through this on my own, I spent a lot of time on my knees asking for help.
"The '90s brought slow recovery. The help I had asked for earlier came in an unexpected form. I had asked for security. I received contentment. I had hoped for financial success. I received faithfulness. We paid our bills, although slowly at times. Our kids were all responsible, caring, and hardworking. There was time for church, school, and community work. Life was becoming easier."The new century's first decade has been a time of transition. In farming, we are passing the baton of decision making to the next generation. Bank notes are current. Bills are paid. For the first time in my life, soybeans are nearing $14.
"As I shovel beans to clean out the bin, I'm reminded that satisfaction and self-worth do not come from a sale or a purchase. Satisfaction and self-worth have come from serving, sharing, and giving.
"Sometimes sharing meant giving in small amounts with very little to spare. Sometimes giving was in the form of time and talents, but it always brought with it a sense of joy.