Turning the Harvest into a New Crop

Turning the Harvest into a New Crop

Union County Sunset 2.2.23

"There has to be a morning after..." So goes the lyrics of a song by Maureen McGovern.

There are those mornings after a major event that marked the end of something that always feel strange. You know that from this point onward everything has changed and you are not really sure how the future is going to be for you. Even when it is something great that happened there is a feeling of loss that it cannot ever be recalled, revisited, or relived. Yet, on the morning after we are forced to plan for a new beginning that will lead us into another green pasture of hope. For the evening and the morning were the next day and they bring new possibilities.

The cycle of life is never-ending. Life ends. The cycle continues. From the birth of a new being to the death of a life now done there is a finality to life. But, with the birth of the newborn, we know the cycle goes on and on into a future filled with mysteries and uncertainties.

Life on a farm is all about this very topic. Every season is full of question marks. How will you make it through this year? Will the weather be advantageous? Will our work pay off? What are we doing out here working with our hands and our souls to make the life we've created grow and will that effort lead to a profitable end for the seeds and livestock you have worked so hard to plant, cultivate, and harvest?

I was discussing with my accountant one morning the ideas about inheritance and legacies and she was saying that her father said that no inheritance survives longer than three generations. The reason is that when fortunes are handed down through the family, it gets divided between the heirs until which point that holding on to a small piece of that no longer makes sense to the individual graced with it.

When my parents talked to me about the family farm that had been handed down they told me to never ever sell the land, to keep it and take care of it. But, they were not farmers and I am not a farmer, and even if I was, this little piece of land, comparatively speaking, isn't big enough to support a farmer. In order to make that become profitable you can only lease the land to people who need the land to farm. Inevitably, however, there comes a time when the farm is just too small to make sense to keep it and the best thing to do is to make it available to those who actually work the land.

Upon reflection on the history of families in the world, the ones who keep things together and work to grow their inheritance together are those that build empires. When given a chunk of cheese Rats will chew off their part, go in their corner and eat it up what is left of that chunk of cheese? Nothing. There is no more cheese and the rats go off looking for more cheese to consume.

I was hell-bent to try and hold together our legacy somehow. But it requires willing parties to work together for the good of the 'thing' over the good of the owners of it. In other words, we are like the Rats who couldn't preserve the chunk of cheese but ate it up and left it behind, interested only in our own profit.

Admittedly, in order to build an empire requires the knowledge and the wisdom to be able to do that. It requires self-sacrifice for the cause. It has to be about WE and not about ME. But unless everyone is able to do that and work together to find a solution for the problems encountered in a joint venture then it is futile to try.

Happily, I have contributed to the building of an empire by allowing those who worked on the land to add to their empire. They are working together in a common effort to build a legacy and a livelihood for generations to come. It is inspiring to see. The fact that we are related helps a lot because they are people I know, trust, and like and they have always treated us well. My father's family were farmers and teachers mostly. There are several families related to me that have built farming empires and have built businesses related to farming. The fact that our farm was farmed by the family who ran our farm wasn't really a choice we had but rather was handed to us in a way. But, I couldn't reconcile selling to another family when the family who had worked for so many years on our land were clearly deserving of it, not that the other family wouldn't have been. I have great respect for them all.

People who are not farmers generally can't afford to buy farmland to lease. The price of land is prohibitive for that purpose. I didn't even consider it as a possibility.

Buyers and Sellers Remorse

I'm sure there is remorse on both sides of the transaction. This is natural and I can only say that my remorse is an emotional one because of the legacy it took to create the farm in the first place.

My great-grandfather bought a lot of land before the depression and then the depression came and he was able to keep the land but had to struggle to do so. He worked himself and everyone around him really hard to make the farm a success. He and his wife had 1 son and 5 daughters. The son, my great-uncle, became a farmer in the tradition of my great-grandfather. The daughters received their portions of the land willed to them. The only one who married someone who farmed was my grandmother. One daughter was divorced, one unmarried, and the other 3 married non-farmers. So that one son farmed everyone's farm for them, mostly. Now some of the sons and daughters of the next generation married farming people, but in essence, the inheritance went largely to the direct descendants, either through purchase or willed inheritance.

When one considers that from the time my father stood behind horses and mules to plow the field and that hay was hoisted by boys from the ground to the top of a wagon and into a barn stacked high to the ceiling, and the working of cattle, chickens, and pigs for other forms of income, that all in all resulted in just plain old hard work, you have to realize that the cumulative sweat that poured onto those grounds is part of the richness of it. So, when I sell that land I also feel that I am selling their lives away. All they worked for, the profit that enabled me to pursue my dreams, and that created new wealth for my family by the wise disposition of my mother, is now dissolved. I have real seller's remorse because of this. Those hardworking pioneers who created an empire deserve better. But, they chose to divide the property and not build it, so it isn't all my fault. The breaking up of an empire is a foolish thing to do, in my opinion.

Creating a New Empire

I have no heirs. I have no children to divide the inheritance between. So why bother with creating a new empire? Maybe I won't, maybe I can't, maybe I should, and maybe I shouldn't try. Right now I certainly have doubts about my ability to do anything of the sort. I was definitely not given any wisdom in empire-building by my parents. My parents were great people, but they weren't Chiefs, they were Indians, and thought like employees and not like entrepreneurs. My parents knew only one combination of success and that was to earn more than you spend and save the rest. My mom was super resistant to investing money until she learned something about it, and then because a wise manager of the money they had left over. My father had no brain for numbers or figures and couldn't read a financial statement to save his life. My father never understood anything about money other than make it, spend as little as possible, and save the rest. If you have no other strategy then this strategy is the best one you can have, it will keep you out of trouble. The problem is, if you can't work or earn money, what are you going to live on?

My father never paid a dime for his education and training. I'm not saying he didn't work for it, but he never had to really fend for himself in an entrepreneurial sense. First, he grew up on a farm, so he had a job there all throughout his youth, Secondly, he played football well enough to get a full-ride scholarship to college. While in college he was in the ROTC, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, which made it possible for people to go to college instead of going to serving in the military. After his college was over he went into the Air Force and was trained by the best training institution in the world the United States Air Force on how to fly the latest and best jet fighter in the world. The Korean War ended before his service time began, and he remained in the Air Force during a time of no conflict. When his required tour was finished he left the Air Force and instead of working in commercial aviation, which he easily could have done, he went into coaching and teaching high school. In order to advance he needed more education so the GI Bill paid for all of his post-graduate education. So, having never invested a cent into his education, he was able to work in the Kentucky state school system and on into the state university system, earn his doctorate, become a full professor, and build his pension at the same time, which paid out very well for him and his family. My father never knew anything about paying out money to build anything, all he knew was income, never expense. So, when something came up to invest his savings in he was very reluctant to take that risk. To his credit, he did finally become interested in it, but he never had the stomach for it. Mom was the one who finally took control of it all. She was a savant, thank goodness.

So, now looking forward at my situation I have to reconcile my talents. My future is wide open but a future at 62 looks a lot different than it does at 20. I am responsible for myself and I will have to consider security over risk at such a late stage of life. Unfortunately, I am a lot like my father who is really only naturally interested in creative things. He got easily tired of all things numerical, financial, and complicated. I can't say that I am much different from him. But, I try to be more like my wise mother who was brilliant at it.

I am certainly grateful for all I have been given in my life. I owe a debt to my family and to society. How do I repay that debt and how do I create a new legacy that can help build the future of the lives of others going forward? Maybe I should focus on how to enjoy the life I have and simply manage the bounty so I can pay for myself going forward. I have a couple of years before my retirement age begins. So, I am not yet fully retired, nor did I ever think about being retired. Musicians don't really consider retirement a thing.

The New Day is Dawning

The new day is dawning and a new opportunity arises. I believe that enjoying life is a large part of what we are meant to do in life. However, I also feel like contribution to life is important. It is this area that I have to consider moving forward or simply living in contentment. Whatever the future holds for me it is mine to make happen. I've never felt this way before. Really, for the first time in my life, I can make decisions based on myself.

Since losing my career I have not been able to develop truly a "want" or "desire" to do a certain thing. I have ideas. Good ideas. But, to get them to work, I will have to dedicate myself 24/7 to working on that, just like my Great Grandfather did a century ago. I have the gene to work hard. I basically worked too hard at singing. The voice doesn't respond well to over-working. You can't pound at it like driving a fence post in the ground. Learned that lesson too late.

Groundhog's Day

The transaction took place on Groundhog's Day 2023. I made the joke that if like the movie "Groundhog's Day" I lived it over and over again, I could get very rich in short order! Haha. But, my life is somewhat like Groundhog's Day, the film, when every morning I wake up with the same outlook. I find myself "stuck" in this daily malaise. I am definitely looking for a way out of it. The farmers also wake up to the same work every day, maybe a little different, but there is a general sameness to it I am sure. But, they are building something, that makes it different.

I wished I could live day in and day out being good with the sameness of life. But, there is something inside me that won't let me rest. I don't know what it is, if what it is is good, or if I should even want it or listen to it. But one thing is sure, if I don't create something different, it is always going to be the same "Groundhog's Day" for me.

Time to get to work.