What can I say, but thank you

Reflections on 12 years as a columnist

Looking back through my files as I write my final column for this publication, I discovered the first article I wrote for Grainews dates back to 2008. When you say “2008,” it doesn’t seem that long ago, but the math tells another story!

It’s been 12 years of you, the readers of Grainews, taking the time to read my articles and respond to me with comments, criticisms and questions, all of which have helped me become a better person and writer.

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It was very gratifying for me to receive notice that my article was one of the most-read Grainews features overnight or that week. I hoped that meant I was contributing something relevant you found of use or, at the very least, you found my writings humorous, which they say is good medicine.

As a small business owner, I work by myself, so my interactions with others are limited to farm visits, industry meetings and trade shows, which COVID-19 has replaced with phone calls, Skype or Zoom video meetings and the occasional gaze at my reflection in my computer monitor.

My writings for Grainews were a way for me to reach out to you, my pen pals, on a regular basis to offer you some insights and information that may be useful on your walk on this planet.

When I reflect on some of those articles, the ones that stick with me the most are those that inspired you to respond to them.

Particularly, articles about discussions with farmers or clients and how they struggled to make decisions about their farms and their interactions with other family members when it came to running a farm business.

Your responses were priceless and inspiring.

Many illustrated your similar experiences or suggestions about how to work through those types of problems and how to make it work to keep the farm alive.

For example, I had one reader email me with the question, “Is the farmer the boss and/or should he be?” Of course, it was his wife who asked this.

In this instance, the farm was being run by a couple in their mid-fifties, and their two kids, who were in their twenties, wanted to farm.

I am sure you can picture the dynamics of this situation already.

Dad had been the farmer for many years and was doing a very good job, and the farm was, by all standards, successful. The kids brought with them new energy, enthusiasm and knowledge, and they wanted to try new things, do better and be more innovative, which is great, except Dad didn’t want the extra work or headaches of trying to understand the new technologies, etc.

This frustrated the kids and Mom, as she could see the relationships between them all getting tenser, which was only going to lead to a blow up and the kids leaving the farm.

Long story short, we had a good discussion about how to set up a plan to help relieve some of the tension and build confidence for everyone that the kids were ready to take on a larger role in the operation and management of the farm going forward. That would allow the farmer to remain the farmer without all of the worries. I suggested they seek the advice of others to help them build their plan.

The kids drafted a plan of where they wanted to take the farm over the next three to five years and how they planned to do it — including the use of technology and the cost-benefit analysis of that technology to show if it would truly pay for itself or “Just be a nice toy to play with,” as Dad would say.

They enlisted the help of an agronomist, farm equipment technology expert, accountant and banker to put their plan together. They then presented their plan at a family meeting with their banker and agronomist present.

Mom and Dad were impressed by the plan’s detail and Dad admitted he had never created a plan like it for the farm.

The end result was an agreement for future decisions to be made collectively for the farm for the following three years, after which time, Mom and Dad would hand over the management of the farm to the kids. That way, the kids would have time to get financing in place to invest in the farm and Dad could continue to do what he loves — to be the farmer and put the crop in and take it off and not have to worry about making decisions on farm management and to feel confident his kids had it all well in hand.

It was such a good feeling to play even a small part in helping a family successfully transition. I have been very thankful to be able to give back to the industry that has provided me with such an amazing career over the past 40 years, and which is still going strong.

To Grainews, thank you for letting me write this column for the past 12 years. And to you, the readers, I would like to sincerely say thank you for taking the time to read my articles and to respond to me. I hope I have been able to make a difference for some of you as you have made for me over the years.

Be safe, stay healthy and thank you for what you do every day!

Editor’s note: We would like to extend to Brian our congratulations and most sincere best wishes as he joins Paterson Grain as general manager of its Foothills Grain Terminal at Bowden, Alta. We’d also like to thank him for providing 12 years of invaluable advice, recommendations, insights and marketing wisdom as well as his long-term commitment to Grainews and to the success of its readers.

About the author

Columnist

Brian Wittal

Brian Wittal has 30 years of grain industry experience and currently offers market planning and marketing advice to farmers through his company Pro Com Marketing Ltd.

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