Going Green to Stay Out of the Red
Funny thing happened this past year while farming cotton. I lost a lot of money. After a year of blood, sweat and tears, I ended up in the red. So, that experience has me seeing green now. Not in the form of lots of cash, but in the form of lots of wheat.
For 12 years, my Dad and I have farmed over 6,000 acres together. With mixed emotions, I informed him I could no longer do it anymore. I was emotionally, physically, and financially drained. Surviving five straight years of drought and minimal crop yields, it was time for a drastic change in philosophies and directions. Downsizing my operation to 1,000 acres, I "let go" of my only farmhand, and I've struck a new path in my farming career.
As cotton hovers around 60 cents per pound, it is next to impossible to make a living unless one of two things occur:
A) A bumper cotton crop well over one bale/acre is harvested.
or B) Drought wipes us out early on and we collect cotton crop insurance.
There is very little wiggle room in between those polar opposite scenarios. A half a bale an acre can ruin a dryland cotton farmer these days. Anything less than a bale per acre will only get you even or get you broke. Not exactly a warm and fuzzy feeling to have. But I think I can carry a bright enough lantern into these dark times.
With wheat I can make it through the "commodity crisis" we're currently experiencing…as long as I make a decent wheat crop. That means timely rains. Last week, I got what I call an "ass-saving" rain. Cause it literally saved my ass…and then some.
Keeping my farming expenses down with half my acres in wheat, I'm staying versatile and more diverse that in years past. Wheat requires far less money than cotton from seed to harvest. While my potential income will be far less than a good cotton crop, my chances of losing money have greatly decreased. That makes me and my banker sleep a little better at night.
These are difficult times for cotton farmers. I see potential for a fuckin' disaster over these next couple of years. We have no help from government currently. No subsidies, no bale outs. With only crop insurance (which isn't what it use to be) or a bumper crop to save us, our safety net has shriveled like penguin testicles after a quick lap around the nearest melting iceberg.
So each morning, I bless my green, green wheat. And I hope it will soon turn into golden abundance of bliss. As for my cotton acres…I'm being cautious. Not cautiously optimistic, just cautious. I can't afford to lose what I did last year. Not many of us can. So through my fields of green I walk daily, hoping they keep my farming operation out of the red and into the black.