What a spring so far! As a rancher, I will not complain about the rain. But, there are many of us trying to figure how to fit water skis onto planting equipment and harvest hay out of lakes. As another rancher said to me today, maybe it’s time I considered aquaponics.

In all seriousness, while the weather has seemed excessive, it does bring out the ingenuity in farmers and remind us that longevity is crucial to agriculture. Recent years have seen dramatic swings in all aspects of ag, most notably in prices and weather. Wet springs and cold temperatures have led to delayed or no plantings. The same weather pattern has led to blizzards in the North and flooding in the South, devastating many cattlemen through calf loss during calving season, or even the loss of entire herds.

Less than a decade ago, we had record prices in crops and cattle, partially due to the weather patterns then. Today, because of other outside factors, the “normal” effect of weather events on pricing has not occurred, keeping prices somewhat depressed. As a result, area farmers and ranchers have seen income losses on multiple levels, unable to recover to the same degree as past historical supply and demand situations.

But through all of this, we have seen our friends and family in agriculture survive. For young farmers like myself, it has been eye-opening to leave the golden years we started out in and experience conditions comparable to those our parents and grandparents endured when they began. We’ve become judicious in our spending habits, inventive in our farm improvements and flexible in our expansion or ownership plans.

Many of us have learned hard lessons, either through our own doing or fate’s whim. For some, that meant downsizing or holding off on expansion. For others, it meant keeping the farm going while working a job in town. It’s meant changing course for part or all the farm, like converting turkey houses to shrimp farms or adding event centers and farm tours to cattle ranches. In the end, we will do whatever needs to be done to keep the farm going. Necessity truly is the mother of invention and farmers and ranchers are the most ingenious of all.

It is true, though, that sometimes making the changes necessary to survive takes more funding than what’s currently available. This is where having a plan and a good relationship with your lender can make a world of difference.

If you’ve maintained a good rapport with your lender through the good and the bad, they’ll be better able to guide you when those new ideas and opportunities arise. And if you know the ins and outs of those opportunities – the business plan, realistic cash flow projections, goals and the strategies to achieve them – it makes those new business ideas all that more palatable to your lender.

A good lender knows that the better you do, the better they will, as well. It’s their job to guide you, to help you make the best decisions possible for your farm. Open communication is the key to any relationship, especially between you and your lender. Because while you can’t rely on the weather, you can rely on them.

Jessica Allan is an agricultural lender and commercial relationship manager at Guaranty Bank in Neosho, Mo. A resident of Jasper County, she is also involved in raising cattle on her family’s farm in Newton County and is an active alum of the Crowder College Aggie Club.

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