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A Letter to Every Farmer Under the Age of 35

Wanda Patsche
Educational Opportunities: 
Home > Education & Events > November 2016 > A Letter to Every Farmer Under the Age of 35

Dear Young Farmer:  

Farming is an honorable occupation, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is a profession overflowing with risk, hard work and great rewards. Right now, the risk involved with farming is wearing our patience thin. If there is anything that is constant with farming, it is volatility. Volatility means liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse. And it's the worst part that is affecting us now. Most people would never be able to handle the volatility farmers experience, but we are tough and we will get through it.  

Commodity prices have recently stabilized, but corn prices are still $3 to $4 below their highs of 2012 and beans are as much as $7 to $8 below their highs. Producers need to know their cost of production using an expected yield to take advantage of any rallies in the market. Most producers need between $3.50 and $4.25 per bushel as a breakeven for corn. Make sure you are prepared for any opportunities that may arise.

As a young farmer, you have not experienced the volatility we are facing right now, but we have. It’s tough and challenging. But the good news? This will pass. From experience I can tell you that the saying “the higher the highs, the lower the lows” rings true. And, as someone who has weathered past storms, I have some suggestions to help get you through these tough times.
  • Remember that volatility in agriculture is cyclical and it will pass.
  • Know your cost of production. This is nothing new to you. But now, more than ever, it’s important to really understand what it costs you to produce that bushel of corn or soybeans.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to diversify. Diversification has helped our farm tremendously.
  • Face the reality that you will not be making the same profits you have in the past few years. This doesn't mean you will never make these profits again, it just means it won't happen for a while.
  • You may need to do some things differently. Find ways to become more efficient. In the end, it's times like these that will make you a better farmer.
  • Keep open communication with your lender and suppliers. Never stop building those relationships.
  • Keep your friends and family close. Do not isolate yourself. Talk to other farmers about what they are doing to get through these times. Listen and offer encouragement to other farmers.
  • Consider working with other farmers by sharing equipment and/or labor.
  • Sign up for a marketing class or financial workshop. Educating yourself will benefit you now and in the future. Again, this will make you a better farmer.
  • It's okay to listen to your parents or other farmers with a lot of experience. They have wisdom that only time and experiences create.
Be patient and have trust. You will get through this. In five years, farming will be different than it is today. You may need to make some tough decisions, but in the end, you and your farming business will be better because of it. Take some time for yourself and your family. And always remember what is really important in your life, which is your faith, friends and family.  

Yours truly,  
Farmers who understand and have been through this before and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
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