Across the Editor's Desk: A beginner's edge
Farm Issues Editor Cheryl Tevis advocated in her “Family” column in the February issue that it is time for a new marketing campaign to entice rural-reared young adults to come back home to rural America. You can read the column and a good discussion on the topic of “coming home” in the Women in Ag forum of Agriculture.com (www.agriculture.com/homecoming).
I remembered the column as I attended three breakout sessions of the sixth annual Beginning Farmers Conference at Iowa State University (ISU) last month. Almost all of the seats were occupied by young adults. The majority were college age. They were serious learners who each paid a $40 fee. They asked good questions. And they all could provide a passionate testimony for their community's marketing campaign on why they want to come home to farm.
The first session I attended was on machinery sharing. It was led by ISU Economist William Edwards. His session was a good reminder that when you are short on assets and long on labor, you have to be highly creative to give yourself more capacity.
Machinery sharing is one way and there are numerous ways to create fair agreements. Each one requires disciplined record-keeping and thoughtful understanding of the agreement and possible issues before the agreement is signed. One great source of low-cost information and ideas is the MidWest Plan Service website (www.mwps.org).
Push To Grow, But Manage The Risk!
ISU's Steve Johnson led an excellent session on risk management by combining crop insurance decisions and marketing strategies. Farming is risky. And risk protection is especially important for beginning farmers who are aggressively pushing to grow.
Johnson outlined a number of risk-protection strategies, then he challenged the group with this question: “What other decision can you make in the next five weeks that can guarantee you $800 revenue per acre on corn?” The same was true with soybeans. You could guarantee $550 for $20 of your own money with the government paying another $30 of the premium using Revenue Protection.
Tim Fevold of Hertz Farm Management led a session of land leasing arrangement. He urged the group to be patient but persistent as few leases change hands each year. He reminded listeners that leasing is about relationships and that reputation, trust, and likability matter as much as competency in farming.