Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding a farm

Midwest Dairy Expo marked the two-year anniversary of the start of our search to find a farm.

Two years ago, we were expecting our first child, working for another farm, and wondering what on earth we were going to do when our year-long herdsman appointment expired. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked us "What are you going to do when you're done here?" we wouldn't have needed a loan to buy our farm.

Our answer was always the same: "We don't really know yet, but we'll figure something out." We were operating in a state of blind faith and forced optimism. We really couldn't see around the next corner, but we kept moving in that direction anyway.

For me personally, not having a 'plan' was incredibly unnerving. Looking back, though, I realize the experience changed the way I look at life. We refused to dwell on 'what if we don't find a farm' and instead faced each day with the belief that we truly would find something. I've always been a relatively positive and optimistic person, but this was a larger-than-life example of the power of positive thinking and turning thoughts into action.

We ran into our Farm Business Management instructor from up north at the 2007 Expo. We talked with him about what was next and decided to organize a search team. We met with our search team, which later developed into our Dairy Profit Team, in the spring of 2008.

I can honestly say the advice offered at that meeting is the primary reason why we own a farm today. We had been asking around about farms since we moved to Stearns County; since there weren't too many options for buying a farm we had turned our focus to finding a farm to rent. Our search team turned our focus back towards farm ownership.

So, with our young son in tow, I started the process of finding a farm. I taped a map of the county to our kitchen wall and drew two big circles around our preferred areas. I followed over two dozen leads on farms to rent, eventually visiting a half-dozen. I looked for weeks for farms for sale before finally finding a candidate. It turned out not to be a good option: it was too far away and needed too much work to be functional. I was so disappointed I told Glen I was taking a break from farm-finding.

Then, on the day I declared my break, I drove by a farm-for-sale sign on my way back to the house we were renting. That particular farm hadn't showed up in any of my online real estate searches. I found the listing after I searched the exact address. The farm met all of our requirements. I could barely contain my excitement when Glen got home that night. We called a realtor the next morning. Looking back, we maybe should have hired a realtor in the very beginning and saved me the stress of searching, but hindsight is always 20/20.

We visited the farm and made an offer. By mid-summer, after three months of ironing out the details of buying a farm and relocating cattle, we were on the farm. By fall, we (ourselves and our cattle) were finally all in one place again. (While we were working as herdsmen we had cows and heifers in five different locations.)

Now, whenever we start to lament about the challenges currently in front of us, one of our loan officers kindly reminds us, "Look at how far you've come." It's hard to remember to look back and recognize our achievements when we're so focused on moving forward and what the future holds, but our loan officer is right. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a successful dairy farm. Sometimes we need to put our concerns about what we don't have on hold and celebrate what we do have.

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