Use Your '40 Chances' To Help Feed The World

Nebraska Notebook

Take advantage of your '40 Chances' to improve your operation and help feed the world’s hungry

Published on: March 11, 2014

In mid-February, I attended a national conference in Omaha on the fast-paced adoption of cover crops across the United States. Leading conservationists and farmer panelists presented useful information on the benefits of better soil health and sustainability through cover crops.

The highlight of the conference, for me, was a presentation by Howard G. Buffett, Illinois farmer, author, photographer and manager of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a private charitable foundation. The foundation served as one of conference cosponsors. He's also the son of Omaha's financial icon, Warren Buffett, and he's on the board of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., an invest holding company.

Each conference participant received a copy of Buffett's newest book, "40 Chances, Finding Hope in a Hungry World," a book that captures his journeys around the world as he seeks new approaches to end the suffering of the hungry and displaced. Each of us also received a copy of a 144-page companion book filled with Buffett's wonderful photos from those extensive travels. "Wonderful" must be put in context, however. He's a superb photographer who captures the beauty of the world's natural landscapes. But he also captures examples of the armed conflicts and violence occurring in many nations and the abject poverty and starvation of the world poorest countries, too.

The book's title, "40 Chances," is central to Buffett's message to us to act on the plight of hunger, not only across the oceans but also here in our country.

He said that each one of us has 40 chances to accomplish our life's goals. "I learned this first as a farmer because all farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest. Then I realized that this applies not just to agriculture, but to all of us, because we all have about 40 productive years in our careers to do the best job we can and create the change we want to see. For me, that change means ending hunger."

He also wrote that "approaching life with a 40 Chances mindset gives you reason to hope and take action, and it forces fresh approaches to that our world desperately needs."

His goal of ending hunger would appear to be insurmountable, especially in nations where ages-old civil wars or religious conflicts destroy the ability to produce food and the ability to get food aid to those most in need.

Embracing the concept of 40 Chances means getting out of our comfort zones and not always accepting the status quo, he said.

Buffett's travels to 130 countries brought him face-to-face with the world's realities and left him with haunting memories—children starving and sometimes in shackles, "slaves to both hunger and those who captured them." Human trafficking. Disease. Forced prostitution. However, he also points to the human spirit. "Many of these individuals remain determined to press onwards in life—hopeful that things will get better."

While working on our own 40 Chances to be the best farmers and ranchers we can, we need to help bring hope to the impoverished. And that includes this country—an estimate 50 million people are food insecure here in America, according to Buffett

You can learn more about Buffett, his travels and the foundation's efforts to relief hunger by going to

At that website, you will learn how to purchase the book.