Worm or beetle, drought or tempest, on a farmer’s land may fall. Each is loaded full o’ ruin, but a mortgage beats ‘em all. ~Will Carleton
The farmer evokes images of the kind of hard work many Americans today have not, and never will, experience. He must be persistent yet patient, strong yet gentle, and above all, he must love his work. Set against the audio backdrop of Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech addressing the FFA titled, “So, God Made a Farmer,” the Ram truck commercial which was featured during the Super Bowl XLVII depicted these widely-held characteristics of farmers. It’s a touching piece with a wistfully nostalgic tone. As Paul Harvey tells the tales of agricultural hardships, you can’t help but recognize there is a common theme among farmers; quiet and unwavering acceptance of the sacrifices – those within their control, as well as those resulting from uncontrollable natural forces – required to do what they love for a living.
Success in farming comes through lifelong commitment. For many, working beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 is the norm. Even after accounting for the extended working years, enlistment of family members in everyday chores is not out of the question in order to carry the heavy workload of managing a farming operation. Iowans, in particular, are proud of the agricultural advancements originating in our state which have had a worldwide impact on society’s food supply, because the sacrifices made by individual farmers to accomplish such an impact are well-known and understood. This celebration of farming achievement can be witnessed every summer when farm families are nominated and honored with “The Way We Live Award,” at the Iowa State Fair, for their exemplary hard work and love for the occupation.
Not everyone is cut out to be a farmer, but for those who are, it brings great joy. My late father-in-law, Steve, mastered the art of growing tomatoes. Season after season, he would grow a new tomato variety, or test the effectiveness of planting techniques recommended by fellow-gardeners or by one of the many gardening articles he pored over. At the end of the summer there were pounds and pounds of juicy red and yellow globes of deliciousness to be eaten fresh from the garden with a dash of salt and pepper, or made into mouthwatering salsas. Though he was raised on a farm, he was not a farmer by trade, yet all his free time was spent deepening the shade of green on his thumbs! As a child, I remember working in garden beds for hours in the hot, humid Iowa summers. It was never a chore I was asked to do, but rather, something I asked to do for my own enjoyment. My love of gardening was cultivated through time spent digging in the dirt with my own father – a self-proclaimed “city kid” who left home determined to grow things for a living by completing his undergraduate degree in Agriculture. On the farm, he learned quickly there were many things which extended beyond his college studies. Fortunately, my grandfather was a seasoned farmer who worked alongside and generously shared his hard-earned wisdom with my dad, his son-in-law. By the time I was born, my father had moved on from the daily care of food-producing plants and animals to pursue a profession in caring for people as a Pastor and Chaplain. Despite this career move, his passion for farming remained as he took every opportunity to get back into the fields to help farmers we met in our communities. His love for farming produced more than crops and livestock; lifelong friendships were grown as he shared joys and heartaches with farmers as they worked together.
Just as in farming, if you intend to make a long-term commitment, you must first sit down to determine whether you are able (and willing) to bear the costs. You must consider whether you value the fruit enough to justify the labor. From there, it’s necessary to make lifestyle adjustments to cover those costs. Retirement planning or setting a charitable goal are examples of this, as are decisions to invest in higher education or a home in which to raise your family; the trade-off may mean facing a mountain of school debt for a time, or a lofty mortgage with a long road to repayment. Nonetheless, if you weigh the risks with the rewards, perhaps with the counsel of an unbiased financial advisor at Foster Group, you can make a plan concerning those things within your control – like accepting a reasonable amount of debt given your unique circumstances – while also giving appropriate consideration to the things outside of your control such as determining the right amount of life insurance to meet your family’s needs. The key is to push fear aside to pursue a dream, while recognizing and accepting the necessary sacrifices of success – don’t allow those things within your control to break the bank along the way! Take the first step toward realizing your dream by sharing it with a financial advisor who can help you evaluate the risks, and chart a path to accomplishing your goal.
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