1 Wrapped Gift & 4 Children. This Could be a Problem!


The Christmas countdown is upon us.  The tree is up, but there seems to be a scarcity of presents underneath it.  I believe it is a direct correlation between our annual land payment and real estate taxes both being due in December mere weeks before the Holy holiday.  There’s also the matter of not enough time to “do it all” clouding the vision of our world today.

All this hustle and bustle leads to the fact that I have one gift wrapped and ready to take it’s rightful place under the majestic pine dominating our living room.  While that’s good, it may not be enough.  God willing, all 4 of my offspring will be gathered with me sipping coffee and delving into the stockings filled by Old Saint Nick on Christmas morning.  If other packages don’t magically appear proudly encased in bight paper and fancy ribbons, there will be 3 puzzled faces looking at me and sending curious glances at their recipient sibling.

I have gifts for the others.  They are not the same, but they are closely equal in value, and picked specifically for each of my loved ones.  Those boxes are currently hidden in my bedroom.  “Old habits die hard”.  Those presents could be hidden in plain sight, as the oldest lives in his home here on the ranch and the other 3 are are away at college, but they will remain safely tucked away and out of sight until layered with wrapping paper.  Those gifts would be well loved, if for some reason they never made it to the tree and the children found them later, but the Christmas magic would be missing.

The 3 that would have to search the house for their gifts to discover them later and unwrapped might experience a bit of confusion as to which gift was meant for them and even if they had found all that they were to receive.  It might give those three the feeling that they were loved less that the child receiving the timely wrapped gift because I had devoted time to prepare for one of them, but not all of them.  Granted each would receive a gift, but they might seem a bit less special than the one of prominence under the tree.

It is the same theory when we turn our thoughts towards succession plans.  One of my children has graduated and come back to the ranch.  The other 3 love our family ranch, but do not share his passion for the land and cattle and are headed towards other careers.  While their chosen occupations may not include daily routines of chopping ice, tagging calves, fixing fence, and all the other glamorous tasks ranching includes, they would like to see the family tradition continue.  It’s rather clear cut for the son that wishes to remain on the operation, but what are the roles of the other partners that may be absent for weeks or months at a time?

That will be a topic of discussion at our kitchen table when the whole family is home over Christmas Break.  I’ve been working on plans for the son following in my footsteps and meticulously making sure his chosen path is clear for him to follow.  In essence, he can see his wrapped gift under the tree.  If I do not put the same care into developing plans for those not intent on returning to the ranch, I’m giving them gifts, but they may not find them and there may be confusion as to whom each one belongs.  It’s my duty and privilendge to ask questions and develop strategies tailor made for the other 3 children and then memorialize those plans.  I need to get those 3 gifts wrapped soon!

Those are my thoughts about Our Ranch, Our Family, and My World tonight.

336 Candy Canes and 1 Christmas Cactus

This afternoon I was in the closest grocery store, a half hour drive from the ranch, picking up a few staple products for the pantry and candy canes for the students in the the 20 classes I will visit this week for Ag in the Classroom.  336 candy canes to be exact.  The checkout boy commented on the 28 boxes as he was ringing them up.  I explained that I would be talking to the classes about corn and explaining to the students (& teachers) all of the hundreds of products that are produced with corn products, including the corn syrup in the candy canes.  He looked at me confused, then commented that he didn’t think kids cared where candy comes from, just that they get some. He then shared that some people just give candy canes at Christmas without trying to teach a lesson.

His statement concerned me, because the truth resonated loudly.  We have become a society that doesn’t care where the products we want come from, just that we have them.  Was anything on those long Christmas lists produced here in the United States to keep our neighbors employed?  Do we think of that as we frantically fill our online carts on Cyber Monday?  Slowly we are starting to see the tide turn, but in a dangerous direction.  Consumers are asking where there food comes from and how it is produced.  That’s fine!  I applaud and encourage such investigation.  Knowledge is power.  We want to know we are making wise choices, especially when it comes to feeding our families.

The danger in the scenario is when consumers removed 3 or 4 generations from the farms and ranches that produce their food read a post from an online scare tactic “expert” or take advice based on someone’s opinion, not fact.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that’s what is driving the tide of new consumer driven regulations dictating how producers grow their crops and raise their animals.  When 2% of the population feeds this country but are overwhelmingly outvoted by the other 98% bad and costly decisions will be made.

When I was in the grocery store, I also purchased a Christmas cactus.  I remember growing up my father’s parents had many of the gorgeous plants, on their large southern window sill, that bloomed throughout the holiday season.  I loved seeing the understated plant suddenly erupt into a blaze of color about Thanksgiving with the riot of pinkish red proudly bursting forth until the snows were deep in the end of January.  Those blossoms were the same an an Advent Calendar to me.  Enjoying those bright plants in the dead of winter was a part of our family’s Christmas traditions.  I decided my old children should enjoy this simple pleasure, so picked a hardy plant and placed it in my cart.

The same young man scanned the plant that scanned the candy canes.  Because I’m a visiting sort, I let him in on the fact having Christmas Cactus had been a tradition in my family.  He commented that was cool and many people were buying them.  On my drive home, I thought about how he had the power and the vote to decide which of my family traditions should continue, raising crops and/or Christmas Cactus.  While that may seem like a large leap, alarmingly, it isn’t.

It terrifies me to think I have worked my life, as those before me, to build a family Ag operation to see continued by the next generation, that could radically change overnight with well meaning but misinformed consumers and their votes and demands.  Taking GMO enhanced corn off the market clears all the shelves of candy canes loved by children across the world.  Losing the ability to take the best attributes from one plant and add them to another will cost the beauty of hybrid plants like Christmas Cactus available in a grocery store in Kansas in December, and radicalized voices can bring to an end to our family’s cattle ranch.

All the careful succession planning in the world cannot preserve of family’s time honored and loved tradition of helping feed the world high quality, safe, delicious, nutritious, and affordable beef if we allow the 98% that are unfamiliar with our world to set the laws, policies, and guidelines.  It’s my duty as the “older generation” to speak up and tell our story while there is still one to tell.

That’s how it is tonight on Our Ranch, with Our Family, in My World.image

First blog post “Our Ranch, Our Family, My World”

As I sit down to begin this journey, I realize it started long ago. I will loop you in along the way to understand what has brought us to this point, a point many others may be at as well.

I am part of the generation looking to our future in production Ag while looking back over our shoulder at the generation nipping at our heels ready to take our places. We look at them with pride, so glad they have chosen to follow in our boots, but there is an undercoating of trepidation mixed in as we look at declining commodity prices and land values. We have fought the fights on the battlefield they want to enter & instinctively we want to shield them from the harm they are flinging themselves into headlong.

Our parents had the same dualing emotions when we stepped up to the challenge. Oh! But that was different….we knew what we were doing. Right? Wrong! There is no perfect training prerequisite program to running a production agriculture operation. Yes, there are degrees to pursue, and an apprenticeship that began shortly after birth when we were loaded into trucks & tractors, but nothing, NOTHING, will prepare someone for the multitude of challenges faced in a multigenerational Farm or Ranch.

If you have made it down to the 4th paragraph, you either share the same passion, or you are an insomniac. I gladly welcome you both! My head and heart are full. It seems as if I have been in training for the transition ahead of me for all of my life. Genetically, it’d been “my duty to the operation” to see it move forward and safely into the care of the next generation. Those who have grown up in a business owning family, be they located on Main Street, or on a dusty country road will understand the destiny that was mapped out for us by well meaning grandparents and parents. The underlying question becomes, would I have chosen my life’s work had I been born to different parents? No. I would not have had the opportunity, or the dream or desire. How sad that would have been. Yet, at times, I am sure it would have been a much easier road. Thank goodness I will never know.

What I do know, is that as much as I loved and respected my parents, they worked very hard to build a good life and planned ahead to protect me with an estate plan. They however, did not develop a true succession plan. I have paid the price of their one shortfall many times over. Now, it’s my turn. My estate plan is in place. The succession plan is sketched out in loose form on the back of envelopes and filed in my office drawers on crumpled napkins as an idea formed while driving & that’s all I had to capture the moment. That’s unfair. It’s unfair to my children and it’s unfair to me and the legacy I wish to leave.

Together I hope those considering their plans and futures and I will join together in a community of sharing not only plans, ideas, issues, and solutions, but the many layers of emotions that these decisions all stir in our hearts.

Welcome to Our Ranch, Our Family, My World as we go about Keeping Our Family Ranch!