Category Archives: Thoughts

Selecting Land

My good friend, Greg Judy, who actually has a Youtube channel to which you can subscribe for his interesting and informative videos about farming/ranching and a whole host of other topics related to profitable cattle and sheep farming, has offered up some key points for considering land purchases for your specific goals.

Greg’s check list when selecting a farm.

The check list really hasn’t changed in considerations for the purchase throughout history.

Buying undeveloped land may seem less expensive, but bear in mind the high cost of making it livestock worthy (or whatever it is you will use your land for). Perimeter fencing is expensive made even more so if hiring a bulldozer to clear the fence rows first is necessary.

As we get older, land which may be more expensive yet closer to a hospital or at least a sealed road will likely become more important.

If you are so fortunate to find a reasonably price parcel in the location important you, with limited buildings, then don’t wait because someone else will buy it. Desirable parcels of property are snapped up very fast. My observations of looking for properties, indicates that poor properties are offered at ridiculous prices just hoping for someone to bite; quality, in-demand properties will sell immediately and land auctions are becoming more popular due to immediate sell and they are bringing a premium price.

If the neighbours aren’t interested in the property and it has been languishing on the market, that is a red flag that something is wrong – do in depth research. Oftentimes, it can be high taxes, poor production values, swampy land, no water, low rainfall, the lay of the land requires constant maintenance (i have a 160 like that, every little rain causes my deep watergaps to blow out, fighting encroaching brush is an annual and long days event)

My personal search requires:

  1. enough acreage in one block location with minimal perimeter (in other words more squarish, not nooks and crannies. one property online had 11 miles of perimeter to maintain yet enclosing only 1700 acres!)
  2. A nice home which has been built with finishes which stand the test of time. Too many homes from the 80s and 90s and so faddish inside, it needs to be completely gutted and redone. May be better to tear it down and start again. Not out of the range of possibility, just be sure you aren’t paying twice for a new home.
  3. Live water with no or little flood plain.
  4. Located on a sealed road with minimal traffic
  5. Near infrastructure to livestock auctions and other supportive ranch venues
  6. Warm winters, warm winters, warm winters – did i mention warm winters?!
  7. Minimal timber and very little brush.
  8. I would like to not be close enough to neighbors to hear or see them, but within 2 hours of a major airport.
  9. Price is critical – i’m not rich – the ranch i buy must find a way to pay for itself or at the least provide a good rate of return. This is nearly impossible in today’s environment where there is very little low risk good investment. Land is in too expensive for its productive value.

Behavior and Tasks

I’ve always been amazed and astounded at how, even at very young ages – preteen in fact, my children have exhibited the powers of observation, deductive reasoning, insight into human behavior, and spiritual intellect far above what i would think is normal at any age. Maybe i’m just clueless. Whatever the reason, most of the time, i’m thankful they feel free to share my shortcomings with me.

In fact, the biggest change was to learn to NOT start another project until the one at hand is completed. They noticed that this would cause me to be overwhelmed by too many incomplete tasks – which simply drives me nuts! It seems like a low priority task should be started while you are in the location of a high priority task – but i’m guessing that 90% of the time that simply isn’t true. Best to make the priority list and stick with it. Don’t start that task that could be put off for 6 months or a year. Just don’t do it. Finish what you are doing, tick it off the list, then start the next. (along with this admonishment comes the all important question – does it really need to be done?)

Don’t get me wrong – if you are reroofing a building and you have a crew and equipment all on site and well into it and you find some rotted boards – yes, replace the rotted boards, then finish the roofing. You get the drift.

Why do i bring this up? As readers have noticed, i’ve started a new and exciting grazing program which is already show promise. Will i be able to maintain the protocol? Yes, with modifications in time and allotments, but the principles can be used. (and mostly as Yah allows)

Anyway, my youngest son, years ago, (okay it can’t be that many years since he’s only 24), pointed out that until the grazing and cow business can’t be put to a management level that most people can handle – even with minimal training – i’m simply never going to find anyone who will want to take over or even help because the day to day is ridiculously overwhelming – basically feeling like i’m putting out fires rather than focusing on building a profitable business that’s fun to watch grow with healthy animals, healthy soil, water, and forage, while producing a premium food product.

To that end, i’m finishing up getting my semi-permanent hi-tensile fences in place to better utilize water, forage, and time resources.

The total grazing plans are a bit bumpy for now because i’m not fully on track, but i’m getting there. Grazing where i wouldn’t normally graze if i was already , but needs to be prepared and get in sync. HA! Well, that was clear as mud.

I needed to change the location of a fence – nearly done with that – this is not necessarily in response to easier strip grazing (though it will be extremely better placed for that) and was already on the to-do list for a couple years now. I installed it in the wrong place 12 years ago – finally getting it done. Otherwise, there are a few short stretches of fences to install, remove, or shift plus i will re install the fence on the Bowyer farm which were removed for the organic soybean farming.

But every task has a priority and unless weather or some such intervenes, I plan to tackle them in the proper and timely order.

So thankful to be able to work hard everyday – though i run out of steam and muscles a bit more quickly than i did a decade ago.

Have fun!

Already Dead

Already Dead –

By Kit Pharo

Henry Ford once said, “The man who is too set to change is dead already.   The funeral is a mere detail.”   I had to read that quote a couple of times before I fully understood how powerful it is – and how appropriate it is to the current beef industry.   You may have to do the same thing.

I want you to think back to the drastic changes that were taking place when Henry Ford made this bold statement.   The horse and buggy were being replaced by automobiles.   Draft horses were being replaced by tractors.   For many people, these changes were beyond comprehension.   If you and I lived during that time period, there is an excellent chance we would have been extremely reluctant to accept those changes.

People hate change!   Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the cow-calf sector of the beef industry.   It often takes two or three decades for cow-calf producers to make simple changes – even though they know the change will be for their own good.   Some changes are not possible until one generation gives way to the next.   As stated in the leadoff article of our Summer 2020 Newsletter, many family businesses advance one funeral at a time.   If you don’t think this is true, you are living in la-la land.

Cow-calf producers who think they can continue to do things the way they have always done them need to WAKE UP and smell the coffee.   As Henry Ford said, “Those who are too set to change are already dead.   The funeral is a mere detail.”   Are you already dead?   I hope not.   It’s not too late to make the necessary changes in your program and genetics – but time is of the essence.   Nothing stays the same.   It’s Time to Change Horses!

Life Lesson in the Garden

A life lesson from my friend Tina Reichert.  She lives and works on her husband’s family farm and hosts guests from around the world at their Sycamore Valley Bed and Breakfast home/farm stay outside Brunswick, Missouri.

Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

A Little Life Lesson from My Garden

Training the blackberry canes, mulching, weeding, watering, weeding, watering, weeding, more training, weeding, weeding and finally some fruit. Then comes pruning the dead canes that are spent from producing the season’s fruit. But the weeding, watering, training continue through the summer into the fall in preparation for the next year’s crop. I am hot, sweaty (or is it “glowing”), and scratched from the process today. But there is a sense of purpose and accomplishment that makes me smile.

This morning’s garden experience has brought to mind this is a lot like relationships. Meaningful relationships take work, a lot of work, continuous work, sometimes unpleasant and even painful work. But if I want to see the harvest: healthy, vibrant, life giving relationships that flourish bearing much fruit in my life and the lives of others, I must stay the course and remain faithful to the “garden” of relationships the Lord has called me to tend.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ” Romans 12:18

I am no Master Gardener, but I know the One who is. He continues to teach little life lessons in the simplest of tasks. Another sweet reason to give thanks for my garden.

May you have a blessed day tending to your “life’s garden.”

Foreign Land Ownership in Missouri

National and international agricultural businesses control the money, influence, and congressmen in Missouri which is detrimental to our local control efforts.  Our senators, representatives, and even the citizens of the state have been bought or buffaloed into believing falsehoods which has seriously harmed the livelihoods of farm families.

Without going into great detail, here is an article with a good overview.

US: Bill would halt foreign ownership of Missouri farmland

Columbia Missourian | 15 January 2020
Letter to the editor

Bill would halt foreign ownership of Missouri farmland

by DAN MURPHY
It’s in the best interest for Missouri farmers and consumers to fight against the corporatization of our food system. Missouri farmers have been under siege by the corporatization of food system led by out-of-state and foreign industrial agriculture companies.
In 2013, our state legislature opened up 289,000 acres of Missouri farmland for foreign corporate ownership. This major change was quietly added to a large omnibus bill at the end of the 2013 legislative session. Two weeks later, Smithfield Foods was purchased by a large Chinese meat packer (now known as WH Group) and instantly acquired over 42,000 acres of Missouri farmland.
A loophole was then added in 2015 that opened up Missouri to virtually unlimited foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland. This is unacceptable and must be stopped.
Rep. Doug Beck (D-St. Louis) has offered House Bill 1492, which would correct this and halt any future foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland. Our farmland is a finite and precious resource that should not be controlled by foreign corporate interests as this jeopardizes both our food security and national security.
I’m calling on Gov. Mike Parson, my state senator, Caleb Rowden, and our Columbia area state representatives to support this legislation that keeps our farmland available for domestic food production.
As a constituent, you can encourage your representative to vote for this bill. You can also become more involved in the choices you make by asking stores and restaurants where they get their meat and supporting groups such as the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Patchwork Family Farms.
Original source: Missourian

Columbia Missourian | 15 January 2020

 

No One Owes You A Living!

The world, including the US, does not owe you a living. Or as Dave Ramsey would say, “You Are NOT Entitled To Anything“. If you dream to make a widget and insist that everyone must support you in your dream and insure that you make a full time living making that widget, then i fear you may be sorely disappointed.  Especially, if your widget making imposes on others’ freedom and property rights.

There are very few, if any, financially successful people with no debt and have, or are building wealth, working only one job.  Often the most successful have at least 2 or 3 other gigs on the side going.  (Even Warren Buffet has several unrelated income streams going!)  When you are in your teens, twenties, and even into thirties, you have energy, vision,  and motivation that enable you to put in 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week.  This allows you to save, build equity, and work towards your dream job if you aren’t already doing that.  When you are older and that energy level drops, hopefully those side gigs are the money invested which are then working for you rather than you working for it.

I recently wrote a blog which told of the near impossibility of a person to get into farming or ranching these days.  This is largely due to the out of balance cost of land vs its productive value.  However, it is not yet impossible to farm and build wealth – even without incurring massive debt!  It may take longer, however.  And, i know of absolutely no one – young or old, in the present or in the past- who can farm or ranch (or any other business for that matter) full time without some sort of side gig.  Read stories of old timers – they were blacksmiths, carpenters, mechanics, traders, transportation specialists, suppliers; any skill they could put to use for pay was engaged.  Wives farmed alongside their husbands, raised the children, and often had a couple side gigs as well.  (Yes, i know that many women are farmers and ranchers, i am one, but also raised my own children, managed the household, and help with the farm.)  It is the same today – if you want to farm (or start any business for that matter) you’d better put a sharp pencil to how you’ll put food on the table and a roof over your head.  Don’t incur debt and make sure you have some savings.  (a borrower is always slave to the lender).  Operational farm debt is as bad as school loans.  Debt for building  a depreciating asset may be the worst of all!  What if something happens to you?  make sure you have plenty of life insurance!  Liability, maintenance, disease, accident associated with buildings and machinery are expensive and ongoing.  Once debt is incurred for a single purpose gadget, you have to keep it going or you may default or leave your family with a ball and chain which seldom adds value (it may actually devalue) to your property. Better yet, don’t go into debt.

Keep your paying job and save your money before you buy a single acre or cow or gadget. Many ranchers today are leasing both land and cattle which can be a great way to get started with very little investment or risk.  Best book i’ve read on this is Greg Judy’s book, No Risk Ranching.  Maybe you won’t have the exact same opportunities that Greg has, but use your imagination – maybe you’ll have to move – as Allan Nation, founder and former editor of Stockman Grass Farmer, used to say, “Everyone has an unfair advantage.”  Figure out yours and put your best foot forward.

Many farmers today still abide by the ways of Earl Butz to ‘get big or get out’ and we now have such an abundance and overproduction of all products that prices continue to slide.  Yet, the mantra continues to be ‘produce more’  and use the economy of scale to maximise profits.  That may good to a point, but the cost to the environment has been substantial by farming ‘fence row to fence row’  and with government subsidies now firmly entrenched there is less risk of a ‘failed crop’ resulting in going broke regardless of debt load or lack of wise financial planning.

I’m not espousing a return to farmers falling out due to the vagaries of weather, political machinations, or burdensome regulations.  Without subsidies, food, fiber, energy prices could soar to the level of parity and the consumer would certainly cry ‘foul’.  But, we all must remember that the economic  rule of supply and demand may cause us to consider better management practices.

There is the concept of focusing on profit rather than production.  If it is possible to make more money producing 120 bushel corn to the acre rather than 200 bushels to the acre, would that be something to consider?  what is the cost to the land and quality of life to produce 200 and even 300 bushels to the acre?  Can i do a better job of regenerating and improving the soil i have to increase pounds, bushels per acre and lower cost as well?  There are a lot of opportunities and new/old practices to learn – the hard part is keeping it simple and CHANGE!  This is a head issue – don’t be a stiff necked people.

Speaking of quality of life – how have you organised your dream?  does it enhance and edify others?  or detract from the lives of others?  is it sustainable?  is it regenerative?  can you keep doing this for the next 60 years?   If not, it’s not sustainable and you had better have a plan in place for the future, less strong, less energetic you.  Will your model rely on unpaid labor of yourself or your family?

Happy Planning

Proverbs 6:

1  My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:  go, hasten,a and plead urgently with your neighbor.  Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,blike a bird from the hand of the fowler.   Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.   Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?   A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.   A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signalsc with his feet, points with his finger,  with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.  There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

When Assets Become Liabilities

When Assets Become Liabilities

by Dave Pratt

Look up the definition of asset in Webster and it’ll tell you an asset is “anything owned that has value.” But Webster has it wrong.  If I put a down payment on a ranch, financing the balance, the full value of the land shows up in the asset column of my balance sheet, but I don’t own the whole ranch. The bank probably owns more of it than I do. No, an asset isn’t necessarily something you own. An asset is something you have. Your net worth (Assets-Liabilities) is what you actually own.

Although your banker would disagree, there is a completely different way to define assets. In his best seller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki defines assets as “things that put money in your pocket” and liabilities as “things that take money out of your pocket.” Between monthly principle payments, interest, insurance, maintenance and repairs, most of the things your banker calls assets are, according to Kiyosaki, really liabilities.

Ironically, the fancy cars and homes that we see as the trappings of wealth are actually huge constraints to generating wealth. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the finer things in life, but until we build a wealth generating machine as our foundation, buying “liabilities” will slow, and may block, our ability to create wealth.

There is an even bigger problem with assets.

In the final chapter of his wonderful book, Nourishment, Fred Provenza writes about taking a sabbatical to Australia with his family. To finance the trip he needed to sell their home in Utah. He explains that he didn’t build the house himself, but had done a lot of work on it and had “a lot of skin in the game.” Unfortunately, at the time of the sale the housing market was very depressed and, while they got their investment back, they didn’t get much more. Between the time of the sale and their trip to Australia, they rented a smaller house Fred called “the dump.” At first he was resentful of having to give up owning his “castle.” But after a couple of weeks in the dump he began to realize that he hadn’t owned the house he’d helped build. He explained,  “It owned me.” It owned him financially, requiring huge monthly payments. Even after the sale, it owned him emotionally.

Assets can clutter our space and minds, causing distractions and stress. They make it more difficult to clean and organize. They tie us down. The biggest constraint to moving for some of us is the burden of taking all of our stuff with us.

The things we own trap us. I recently had lunch with a couple who’d been ranching for about 10 years. They both worked off-farm to make ends meet. Over the last several years they’d bought a small place, secured several leases, and built up a herd of a couple hundred cows. But now, with a young family, significant debt and the off-farm jobs, they seemed stuck.

After subtracting the liabilities from their “assets” their net worth came to $1,300,000. On the back of a napkin I wrote them a “check” for $1.3 million and asked them, “If you had nothing but this check and the clothes on your back, and still wanted to achieve your dream, would you use this money to recreate the situation you are in? If not, how would you deploy this money to accelerate progress toward your dream?”

Their expression changed almost immediately. While they’d made progress over the last 10 years, the business they created was going to make it difficult if not impossible to achieve their dream.  Rather than a stepping stone, their operation had become an obstacle to further progress. They set out to use the wealth they’d created to change their course.

I went through the identical exercise with another couple whose net worth was closer to $3 million. When I asked if they would recreate the situation they were in, they immediately and in unison said, “No.” But, when I met with them again a year later, they hadn’t changed anything and resigned themselves to “staying the course.” Rather than using the assets they owned to create the lives they dreamed of, they were owned by their assets, which they used as an excuse to stay stuck. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, described it perfectly when he wrote, “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”