Agriculture's Wheel Of Fortune Turns With Thrills And Chills

Western Ag Vignettes

Buy a vowel and spin for a fortune.

Published on: January 29, 2013

You got me. I'm a "Wheel" groupie. I guess the addiction was passed from the previous generation because my hard-working carpenter father-in-law loved Vanna and the lure of quick riches.

Watching the wheel turn reminds me a lot of how farmers live, vacillating between the $10,000 prize and bankruptcy. Farming and life in general is a fateful constant turning of events that take us between success and failure quickly. Just look at the good prices of late on wheat, then think of the same farm a few years ago when there was no chance of even finding enough money to repair the old Deere.

I have heard it said at so many meetings that "farming is a gamble," and I agree. While we can hedge our bets and put our money only on the elusive "sure thing," this is an industry of great risk. How could a business that depends so completely on the fickle weather be otherwise?

I like to go to casinos to see what the slot machines are doing now and then, and my experience is that while you can do OK for a little while, over time the house wins and you're bust or break even – if you're lucky.

That's my gambling philosophy: if you can break even, you're a winner, because the game you play in the casino or in the farm field is on an uneven table, with chips stacked against you and odds heavily in favor of the dealer.

And "breaking even" is what I hear from so many farmers so often. Many seem to be content with that outcome, even if they remain unhappy they couldn't make enough to pay the loan down more.

So, when farmers make money as they have for the last few years, it appears to be in a rare climate for the production business. It is a time we like to tiptoe lightly on the precarious egg shells of capricious success, for we are in a strange land indeed.

Nevertheless, we must learn to enjoy our good years, just as we lament the hard times, and have a good time with our winnings.

Too often, there is a dark cloud of doom hanging over farmers that is so depressing that it is hard to think of silver linings and the sunshine of success. So, when we  do get to the good stuff, we're so cautious and doubtful we fail to celebrate. That's unhealthy and counterproductive. Don't be a sourpuss farmer who remains downcast constantly in an aura of doom.

You are our food-givers, and despite the economics of things, you should take joy in knowing your job gives life to people, and will continue to be even more vital as the world population spikes.

What other industry is so vital to the welfare of mankind? Sustenance is our sustainability, and with that as our inspirational mission, we are forever successful.

If that's not enough, well, we still have Vanna!