Lessons from the '80s: Your Most Important Assets

My Generation

A handful of state Farm Bureau presidents share hard-earned wisdom from the '80s farm crisis. This story personifies them all.

Published on: January 14, 2014

I'm writing this while sitting at the American Farm Bureau Convention. I just attended an economic outlook workshop and I've sat through a panel where a handful of state Farm Bureau presidents are reflecting on the '80s.

If there is one common theme here, it is that times are about to change. The message, especially to my generation, is a strong one. More than once I've heard that if you've been farming less than 10 years, you haven't yet experienced anything like what the next three to five years will hold.

I'll share a lot more over the next few days, but for now, take a look at this story from Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill.

"Growing up, I saw this family all through 4-H…they were a wonderful family. A family I grew up wanting to be like. We went to the same church. Large, good, honest family. They lost a farm they were renting, and one thing led to another. He took a job driving a truck, depending on family to keep things running at home – he was working day and night, about working himself to death. Eventually his wife got tired of it. She asked him to move out. One night, his son found him in the barn, committed suicide. One child died of illness. Another child left, angry at the world. The whole family disintegrated.

"When you stare at your cash flow each and every night and you're under this kind of stress, the thing you can't forget is your most important asset. The real important thing is your family. That's what we saw in the '80s: it affected families.

"When you think about economic stress, think about your most important assets. Everything else is secondary."

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  1. sandy seest says:

    we lost land in the 80's and that was hard, we did not lose our family. I am so proud of our 5 sons and their families.....the land was good but no comparison to the boys....it was just dirt. By the way there is a book about farmers in Pope County MN written in I believe 1988

  2. Phillip Swartz says:

    Hyper-efficient modern agriculture chooses yields and profits above any heart wrenching story of familial strife. Get Big or Get Out! and plant it Fence Row to Fence Row.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Phillip, the story this man recounted was from the 1980s. They weren't trying to get big, they were trying to survive 20% interest rates. And most interestingly, four modern farmers who survived that period in agricultural history sat together on a platform and said family is the most important thing.

      • Paul says:

        I think Phillip's point was "why did they lose the farm they were renting" and he is presuming it went to a larger farmer more willing to pay a higher rent.