A Farmer’s Road To Riches Is No Bed Of Roses

A Farmer’s Road To Riches Is No Bed Of Roses

We spend a lot of time talking about the challenge of feeding the world of the future. Projections suggest we need to double our food supply over the next 35 years with little additional land to grow that food on. Population growth and income growth will energize the growth in food demand, and fruit and vegetable growers will be significant beneficiaries of that growth.

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To develop the analogy to Lynn Anderson’s 1970s signature hit “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” increased demand becomes the rose garden we foresee for the agriculture industry.

But the path to our rose garden is anything but lined with rose pedals. As Anderson sang: “Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes. When you take, you gotta give, so live and let live, or let go.”

We need to manage the good times to survive the bad times. The 1980s were the proverbial golden era of the produce industry as demand grew and opportunity flourished for many growers. When the times were good, we did invest in technology development but at decreasing rates.

Anderson continued: “Love shouldn’t be so melancholy.” We may have taken success in a melancholy manner and let our competition join that success. When success leads to unexpected reward, that is when we must invest in technologies that capitalize on our resource advantages. If we don’t, then our competition will and their success will only lead to our struggle. Sound familiar?

Technology development paves the road to the rose garden.

“I could promise you things like big diamond rings. But you don’t find roses growin’ on stalks of clover. So you better think it over.”

We could spend our time talking about the opportunities offered in our future with the expected growth in demand, but we will not be in a position to capitalize on that growth if we do not develop new technologies for the future.

The promise of growth in demand is the big diamond ring, but current technologies will eventually become “stalks of clover.” An analogy along this vein is methyl bromide, the rose of our vegetable garden success in the 1980s. It is now a stalk of clover. So you better think it over. Complacency is not an option for this industry.

“Well, if sweet-talkin’ you could make it come true, I would give you the world right now on a silver platter. But what would it matter?”

Sweet-talkin’ will not make it come true. And if it could, what would it matter? There is plenty of competition that can be mobilized if we do not stay on our game.

“So smile for a while and let’s be jolly. Love shouldn’t be so melancholy. Come along and share the good times while we can.”

The industry has been successful in garnering some of the research dollars coming out of our nation’s capital. That became easier when unrivaled success was experienced in the greater plains grain industry with ethanol leading to a golden decade for grain growers. They shared their success in getting budgets for research and development to gain our support for their Farm Bill agenda. That may not be as easy if recent depressed grain markets become more than a bump in the road.

“I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden.”

Now that I have this tune stuck in your head, use it to prepare for the future. There are many hoping that the new era of increased demand kicks in sooner than later. When it does, growers need to decide how they can best capitalize on that growth. There will be a “rose garden,” but remember I never promised you one. We must continue to invest in R&D to insure we do not end with “stalks of clover” when opportunity arrives.