From the Editor: Farm management is for the most cunning strategists
April 1, 2021 by Bree Rody
In 2020, I didn’t start baking bread, doing TikTok dances or any of those other pandemic-era clichés. But I did engage in one stereotypical 2020 hobby: I took up chess.
Yes, I was inspired by Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit to try my hand at the game that had always seemed too complex or my binary, point-A-to-point-B thinking. I quickly learned that nothing breaks you out of that type of thinking quite like chess. It forces you to think a half-dozen steps ahead, prepare a simultaneous attack and defence and always have a contingency plan. You have to learn a new lingo (beyond terminology like “forks” and “skewers,” notation itself is a whole new language) and work with, not against others, to rise to the top.
That’s why the idea of whole farm management reveals so much about farming– all it takes is a conversation to understand how many hats a farmer wears, how many situations they must prepare for and all disciplines they must master. They have to understand nutrition, technology, politics, climate, community relations, safety and more – often without the financial flexibility to have specialists for each discipline They have to both be master investors who can commit to a project, and cunning strategists who can make decisions on a dime. They have to know new lingo, understand the periodic table and master relationships with numerous stakeholders.
In our last issue, we talked about innovation and how producers and applicators have adapted to every curveball thrown their way; in this issue we look at the foundation of it all – why they’re able to be so adaptable.
For the hypermodernists (Réti, Catalan, Nimzowitsch), we take a look at how farmers are tackling big, modern issues like a potential federal minimum wage increase, through big investments like robotic milkers (page 8). We also look toward the U.K. and how the finalization of Brexit is affecting its livestock industry (page 14).
For those who love a gambit opening, we look at how one family farm is future-proofing their operation with big investments focused on automation and renewable energy (page 11). And for those in search of some study material, we speak with the NRCS Animal Manure and Nutrient Management Team to learn how landowners are staying ahead of the curve (page 18).
Just as chess is never as simple as advancing your pieces and converging on the King, farming is never straightforward. Between storage, application, equipment investment and more, a successful farmer is akin to a grand master. And the only way one gets there is through experience, collaboration and the right calculated risks •
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