Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back on 2012

Every year seems to go faster and faster as I continue to grow older and face different challenges and experiences. It feels like 2012 just started yesterday, and now we are about to close it out and move on to 2013. Yet, even though time seems to go faster and faster each year, there still seems to be plenty of time for laughing with friends and family, confronting challenges that make us stronger, and experiencing the different joys that life has to offer us. There's no doubt that 2012 had plenty of those in my life, and I am sure many others can relate.

So looking back on 2012, what all did happen? Well, for agriculture it will definitely be a year that will be remembered for droughts, record breaking commodity prices, and also a year that ended without a farm bill. At the beginning of 2012, I don't think anyone thought we would see the drought we saw this last summer that basically ruined many farmers corn and soybean crops in the Midwest. Unfortunately, many farmers saw their crops turn brown before the summer ended. Even ranchers struggled to get feed for their livestock since much of the feed stock began to dwindle as the drought worsened. This lead to skyrocketing feed prices for many. Along with the drought, it was also a year where grain commodities seemed to continue to move higher and higher due to the drought conditions. I won't forget some even predicting corn prices going over $9 and soybeans going over $20. Luckily prices didn't get that high and began to level out as fall harvest approached.

Although the drought and commodity prices were big news makers in 2012, I think another big news maker is the fact that congress hasn't created and passed a new farm bill. For the first time in history, congress has let an old farm bill expire without enacting a new farm bill. Many don't realize how important a farm bill is to this country since it provides jobs, energy, food, and disaster relief for farmers and ranchers when natural disasters hit their family farms and ranches. Without a farm bill, it is likely that food prices will climb, food aide won't be available for those who need it, and farmers and ranchers won't have disaster relief assistance when another drought or severe storm strikes their family farm. Hopefully those that have been elected won't allow this to continue on into 2013! Yet, even though 2012 wasn't just the greatest year for agriculture, it was a year where farmers and ranchers optimism seemed to persevere. While it could have been a year full of negative attitudes and lost hope, most farmers and ranchers continued to have positive attitudes despite crops burning up and also keeping hopes for better days to come alive. I think that is something all Americans can learn from the American farmer.

For me, 2012 was a year filled with many different experiences and opportunities. During the past year I was able to attend the Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee; wrap up an internship with the Nebraska Corn Board where I learned a lot about the corn industry in Nebraska and in the U.S; took an internship with Cooperative Producers Inc., who I am now employed with as their Precision Ag Specialist; became a teaching assistant at UNL for a commodity marketing class and was able to see the "other side" of the classroom as an instructor instead of a student; and graduated the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in agricultural economics and a minor in international agriculture. Yet, the best part of 2012 for me was being able to spend time with friends and family where many memories were made that will last a lifetime.

So looking back on 2012, it was definitely a year filled with many different challenges and experiences yet also a year filled with lots of appreciation for things that we are blessed with. There is no doubt that as I continue to grow older, each year will go faster and faster. Yet, it is also a reminder that life is short and that we must make the most of our time by taking on new challenges, gaining new experiences, and appreciating those who are in our lives! I wish everyone a happy new year and a prosperous and exciting 2013!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Choosing a Degree before Farming

It is hard for me to believe that my time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is about to come to an end! On December 15th, I will officially be ending my college career and entering the workforce as I graduate with a degree in agricultural economics and a minor in international agriculture. As I begin the next chapter of my life working in agribusiness for Cooperative Producers Inc., I will also begin farming. Ever since I was a little tike, I always dreamed of being a farmer when I grew up and now that dream becomes reality!

Yet, it's interesting when I tell people what I plan on doing after I graduate college. I won't forget the time a friend asked me what I planned on doing after college.

Friend: "So what do you plan on doing after you graduate college?"
Me: "Well, possibly do something in Ag business for a little bit, but most likely go back to the farm."
Friend: "Really, you're going to farm? That seems like a waste of four years and tuition money." 

That last statement by my friend put me in shock. I couldn't believe they thought that going to college was a waste of time and money if I was planning to become a farmer after college. However, it made me start thinking about whether or not going to college was really worth it if all I wanted to do was farm. I mean, yea, I could have went straight into farming and saved money that instead was spent on an education. Yet, the more I thought about it, I realized that going to college and getting a degree was actually going to benefit me in the long run, whether or not I farmed.

So why then should someone, who is wanting to become a farmer, choose to get an education instead of working on the farm right after graduating high school? Well, I can think of a lot of reasons actually. The first reason I can think of is that going to college allows a person to broaden their education, do things that they might not have been able to do before, such as studying abroad. Second, college allows a person to network with new people and even companies and organizations that they may want to get involved with later in life. For example, I was able to network with farm organizations, such as the Nebraska Corn Board, which I hope to some day possibly get involved with. Third, I was able to take classes that will help me be a successful farmer in the future by being able to understand finances, markets, policy, and agronomy. For instance, I took farm and ranch management classes, commodity marketing classes, and other financial classes. I even took a soil science and plant science class. Fourth, it allows a person to get away from the farm for a little bit and experience life in different ways, such as living in the city. I think getting off the farm for a little bit also makes a person appreciate the type of life a farmer lives. I know it made me appreciate my family's farm life. And the fifth and final reason why going to college instead of farming right away is that a person can get a degree that they will always have. Like anything in life, you aren't always guaranteed the opportunity to farm. Unfortunately with farming there is always the chance of a farmer getting injured, which might not allow them to farm anymore. Yet, if they have a degree, there is a good chance that they will be able to find a good job in something else whereas a farmer with no degree might have a hard time finding a job.

So if you or someone you know is considering becoming a farmer, but aren't sure if they want to go to college first, show them these five reason on what a college education can do for them. This might make them consider getting an education before becoming one of America's many hardworking farmers and ranchers!