If spending an afternoon with a half-dozen farmers can't inspire a farm writer to do the best work he possibly can and tell their stories honestly and accurately, maybe he's in the wrong line of work.
Some days I think I have the best job in the world.
Other days—well, I’m sure of it.
Take last Tuesday, for instance. My good friend and frequent source of good ideas and excellent farmer contacts Jim Swart, a great American, arranged for me to meet with a half-dozen farmers in a new farm equipment shed belonging to one of the participants near Howe, Texas.
I’ve known most of these guys for years. Only one was a new acquaintance and he had seen my mug shot in Southwest Farm Press and had read my ramblings before, so he sorta knew me. So we started out on firm footing.
I had asked Jim to scrounge up a contact or two to discuss new technology and also wanted to find out about how the 2010 crops had been and what they were thinking about various other topics. The farmers were: Pat Fallon and his brother Mike, two outspoken and knowledgeable grain farmers; Kenneth Griffin and his son Chris, with whom I talked about wheat planting four or five years ago; Eric Akins, a wheat and corn grower who always has an interesting perspective on farm topics; and Chico Light, the farmer I met for the first time last week but who soon seemed like an old friend.
We talked about a lot of things. No one was particularly pleased with the 2010 crops. Wheat was a bit better than they had expected but a few fields were disappointing. Corn was pretty much a disaster—too hot and too dry during the most critical stage of growth.
They have all adopted GPS technology and agree it has saved them time and money and, at least in two or three instances, sore backs. Stress levels are down, they told me.
We talked about some other things that I will not report because I told them I wouldn’t. And that’s what’s made this and a few other similar sessions the special events they seem to be. They trust me enough to give me background information because they know that “off-the-record” with me means I won’t use it.
And I trust them to give me honest opinions, tips on what works best on their farms, and insights into what running a family farm takes these days.
I picked up a lot of information I’ll turn into stories in the coming weeks. I picked up a lot of stuff that will stay in that farm shed. We laughed a lot. I learned that these guys all get along well, even when they disagree about what’s the best planter or new gizmo or which policy seems best for agriculture.
We compared aches and pains, except for Chris who is still too young to complain or at least too young for those of us of a certain age to be willing to listen to complain. But he’s an impressive young man and a good example of why family farms will be going strong many years from now.
It was a good day—one of more good days over the past thirty-something years than I can count. And the kind of day that makes me appreciate what a good life I have.