I grew up watching Disney movies, where the princess always lived “happily ever after.” The fairy godmother told Cinderella, “If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” Jimini Cricket told Pinocchio, “When you wish upon a star, your dream comes true.” Call me a hopeless romantic or an eternal optimist, but I believe you can achieve your dreams -- only in agriculture, it’s going to cost you.
If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning in 2008, you’ve watched me graduate from college, move home to the family ranch, get engaged to my college sweetheart, get married in my hometown church, purchase an acreage close to our base operation, buy cows, and make plans for the future.
Sure, there have been ups and downs along the way -- fighting to get credit at the bank, cows that didn’t breed back, mistakes made that could’ve been avoided, butting heads with the older generation. But overall, I think we are off to a good, albeit slow, start as young cattle ranchers.
Of course, winning the lottery would really help our cause, but I can’t let loose of a hard-earned dollar to play that game. A girl can still dream, right?
With fall harvest now in full swing, I see the crop farmers swinging their fleet of combines in the field, semi-load after semi-load of corn headed to town, and those farmers are rewarded with crop insurance, government payments and the check at the elevator. I’m in awe of the equipment and the magnitude of some of these outfits that neighbor our land.
My family raises just enough corn to feed our cattle; instead of row crops, we focus more on our seedstock operation and making hay. The rest of my grandpa’s farm ground is rented out.
One evening, my husband Tyler and I were sitting down for a steak supper, and we discussed the option of taking over that land and farming it ourselves. With a notebook and calculator in hand, we started plugging in numbers. With just rent, we were up to $100,000, and we hadn’t even bought seed or fertilizer yet! Talk about a reality check!
Even if we can get an operating loan to plant the corn, it’s sure going to take a pretty penny to get the job done, and that’s not even figuring in how much we already owe the bank for the cow-calf side of things.
A Closer Look: Cow-Calf Production Is Largely A Part-Time Business
Although our dream is to farm and ranch full-time, a million bucks doesn’t go too far in this business these days, and frankly, we don’t have a money tree planted in our front yard.
I’m sure some of you seasoned veterans are chuckling or rolling your eyes at my recent dose of reality. Farming and ranching truly has changed in the last 50 years, and the biggest change is how many zeroes are behind the bill.
I’m not a gambling girl by any means, but being in agriculture is a gamble. It takes sacrifice, dedication, a friendly relationship with the banker and area landowners, and a strong desire to make your dreams come true. Without a doubt, agriculture isn’t for the faint of heart. However, despite the obstacles, I think it’s a career and a lifestyle worth fighting for. And, my story may not end with the perfect happily ever after like Cinderella, but the journey is certainly worth it.
Let’s start a discussion on getting started in this business. I’d like established operators to give me their best advice for getting started, and new operators to tell me about how they overcame their challenges. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.