When our children were little, we sat in front of the television watching an outdoors show on deer hunting. Normally, I don't mind this type of show, but with two young daughters, I thought it best to change the channel. My daughter Elisa, then 4 years old, Elisa, asked why. I explained that I thought it might bother her that the men on the screen were shooting deer. "Well, it's OK," she quipped. "If they don't get shot, they might get hit on the road."
It is safe to say my daughter did not end up an animal rights activist, but she sure had a way of showing me that there can be an upside to any situation.
Right now, the farming community and agriculture industry are a little like those deer — facing potential adversity at either turn. The struggling ag economy, the uncertainty of markets and declining farm income are making everyday choices hard. But I thought it was time to put on my daughter's rose-colored glasses and find the positive side of the current agriculture situation.
Here is what I came up with:
• Older farmers who are searching for a good time to retire from farming can do so now and be revered as intelligent for their choice.
• Farmers who are sticking with it could be remembered for their tenacity and unencumbered optimism.
• Farmers do not have to feel guilty about saying "no" to a seed or chemical dealer.
• Cattle and hogs are living longer.
• Coffee-shop visits take more time, with more things to talk about.
I am ashamed to say it took me all day just to think of five positive aspects of the current situation in agriculture. My husband believes it is because I am a pessimist. I prefer to call myself a realist. I believe when it is bad, it is really bad, and when it is good, it is really good. He, on the other hand, is an eternal optimist.
When I asked my daughter where in the world she heard that if a hunter doesn't shoot a deer, it would get hit on the road — because let's face it, no reasonable 4-year-old could come up with something like that without a little help — she shrugged and said, "Daddy told me." His view — at least hunting a deer would result in food. Ah, yes, my eternal optimist.
We conclude that like our marriage — and I believe other marriages — the agriculture industry has farmers who are realists and optimists. Some individuals look at the current situation, make immediate adjustments and plan for the future: realists. Others look at the situation, having been through it before, and believe there is a promised land on the other side of disaster if they wait long enough: optimists.
I believe a balance of both is needed to make it through any tough situation. Without an optimist's hope and a realist's view, neither can survive. I rely on my husband's hope when I, as a realist, do my immediate planning. I need to know that there is a positive future to plan for. My husband recognizes that just believing does not accomplish a goal. There must be some type of realistic action.
No place for negative
However, there is one type of individual that I have a hard time understanding, and that is a pessimist. To me, a pessimist is a realist without hope. In a pessimist's mind, they do not care if things are good or bad, they are only going to get worse. When things are bad, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When things are good, the light is too bright.
Honestly, I cannot find a place for a pessimist in the current agriculture economy. While I know things are bad for some and even worse for others, making the situation even gloomier is not going to help.
I love hearing from the farmers who have endured the tough times. The stories they tell of being turned away for loans, working long hours off the farm and standing by watching their neighbor's farm sell can be gut-wrenching. Still, they resolve that even after the ups and downs, they are still farming — the optimists.
Then there is our younger ag generation, many who have never known a time when farming wasn't profitable. This next year may prove financially and emotionally difficult for them. There is no extended history for them to draw on, so they focus on facts — the realists. But they will need guidance and encouragement.
Now is the time in our agriculture community for realists to find an optimist and optimists to find a realist. Embrace the other's perspective for just a minute. It may be the little hope needed to avoid becoming a true pessimist.