A Dandelion Break

This is by far the most bizarre set of circumstances I’ve seen going into a new year in my decade of covering this industry. I’m sure those of you who have been bumping around the industry for multiple decades have experiences that match or exceed our current situation. But this fall has to rank among the strangest of all time.

It was only a few scant months ago that I was predicting, along with many others, another two to three years of higher input prices, higher crop prices, and an extra big slice of profitability for everyone. Suddenly, the news anchors are hearkening back to 1929 and wondering if the country, as well as the entire world, might be headed in that general direction. At the precise time that agriculture is experiencing a renaissance, everything else goes to hell in a handbasket.

As Eric Sfiligoj points out in the Up­Front editorial, agriculture is one of the few industries that has (despite the challenged stock prices of some of its largest companies) avoided melting down at some level. And there may well be cause for concern, and the need to be vigilant, against state, local, and federal initiatives designed to extract more from the industry.

It’s easy to get yourself down and out with worry. But I like to take a page from the old comic strip, “Bloom County.” When things would get really bad for the characters in the strip, they’d head out to the nearby open field for a “Dandelion Break.” Everybody’s got a place to take a Dandelion Break — most of you I talk to also utilize the Dandelion Break, but with shotgun and duck call in hand.

Anyway, I got a Dandelion Break of sorts this week — I was invited to attend a dealer meeting hosted by The Mosaic Co. in Florida. For me it was the best of all worlds — educational, entertaining, and warm.

The first part of the trip was a visit to one of Mosaic’s phosphate mines, including a “ride” on one of the massive diggers. There’s a picture of it here, but you can’t possibly understand the scale of this thing until you see it. If I’m reincarnated as a machine, that’s the one I’m going to be.

But by far the most uplifting part of attending this meeting was the opportunity to hang out with about 30 really smart, progressive retailers for three days. Mosaic brought them in to share their stories on how they are successfully marketing its MicroEssentials brand, but that’s not the only thing they do well. They are simply on another plane when it comes to making their business successful. Talking with them opened my eyes, gave me new perspective, and best of all, made me feel optimistic about the future.

If you have an opportunity to have a similar experience, whether it’s at a faraway place or the state ag show this winter, find some smart people and take inspiration from their success.

After my Dandelion Break, I’m going to be ready to face the upcoming winter issues with even more vigor. Hope you find yours, and you can make the 2009 season a rousing success.

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Paul Schrimpf Stories

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