Fort Collins Conservation District

Ron Neher

Thanksgiving Not Just in November

By: Ron Neher, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Retired

Wheat harvest is past, the corn is attaining mature height, the calves are all weaned, and fall harvest of various row crops is soon approaching. So goes the ending summer season in Larimer County, - at least as far as production agriculture is concerned. Agriculture, as far as the farmer and rancher are concerned, does come with a very real measure of uncertainty, - uncertain prices at harvest and at livestock sales, uncertain weather, uncertain operating expenses, - the list can go on with seemingly endless obstacles.

Today’s farmers and ranchers face each year with a measure of uncertainty. First and probably foremost is the weather. Will it be dry with drought conditions, will rains fall with untimely frequency, or will it simply be too wet for optimum yields.

Economics cannot be ruled out either and probably should be viewed with equal importance as weather conditions, - after all, the two do go hand-in-hand. The farmer plants his dryland wheat in September and harvests it ten months later. That is a ten month investment, - really as much as two years when you count the fallow period, - where the wheat price at time of planting is as big a question as the stock market.

Ranching can also be viewed in similar fashion. Each year’s calving season is met with mortality, unwelcomed veterinary expenses, and a market price that is equally a mystery as wheat prices.

Dairies have their uncertainties as well, - with an investment of literally thousands of milking cows which are milked two to three times per day amid uncertain milk prices.

Regardless the outcome of the harvest or livestock sale, one will note that farmers and ranchers continue to do the same thing year after year. Their cows are bred; their wheat, corn, and other crops are planted; and their hopes are high as they enter that period of uncertain market prices, possible diseases and pests, weather problems, and several other problems and situations which are unknown to that person who simply harvests grocery shelves as they shop for a meal to eat at their home.

The next time you enter a grocery store, - STOP! Take a look. What do you see? Groceries, - or as I like to call it “food,” - in all sorts of packaging and displays ready for you to take home and make a meal. How did it all get there? I agree that some of the grocery items are imported, but the large majority is from our American farmers and ranchers.

Why do farmers and ranchers continue to do what they do year in and year out? It is simply in their blood. Why do people do anything? Why do mothers care for their children? Why do men and women serve a career in a branch of the military? Why do teachers teach? Why do preachers preach? Why. …

It can simply be stated that it is in their calling, - and aren’t you glad farmers and ranchers continue to do what they do as you look over the shelves in the grocery store. Thankfulness needs to be understood. Whatever we have, - we need to be thankful for where it came from, - not just to be simply thankful.