Options to consider when coping with drought aftermath

For many farm families, this summer is almost beyond imagination — farms with zero production. It is difficult to understand how that happens, yet it has. Now, the question is, what to do? | File photo

Now what do we do? There were certainly concerns late into the winter, and then even more concerns as an early spring approached with a significant (severe in many areas) deficit in soil moisture.

But, with every new year there is optimism that the new year comes with the chance for upside and good outcomes. For many, the chance for any upside in 2021 has disappeared and is long gone.

It’s too easy to say but it’s true that “it is what it is,” so now what do we do about it?

I’ve just finished reading a book on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, in which the writer captured peoples’ recollections and thoughts from that tragedy.

One of the women interviewed was the wife of a passenger on one of the fateful planes. She said she remembered looking at her young daughter and being saddened in knowing the youngster would never get to know her father. She thought that her daughter would only get to know a sad mom. But then she said that something clicked in her head and she told herself, “you know, I have a choice. I’m not going to ruin her life. I’m not going to ruin my own life.”

For many farm families, this summer is almost beyond imagination — farms with zero production. It is difficult to understand how that happens, yet it has.

Now, the question is, what to do?

I acknowledge that my comments here are not based on any of your views from your living room windows. I’m not walking in your shoes and cannot say that I understand how difficult this is and may be.

However, I do know from other life challenges that options, similar to the situation the young mother faced, will be there.

At some point, it will help to look forward to what can be and not continue to look back into the rear-view mirror of what has already happened. This will not be easy.

Someone once told me that there are two futures. The future that will unfold as it occurs — day by day — and a future that will be what you make it to be. I would always choose the latter.

As I said before, it likely won’t be easy, but nothing worth having comes easy.

I think we are all susceptible to external influences, now even more than ever with the onslaught of information and misinformation channelled through social media outlets and the internet. A question comes to mind. How much are you affected by the “noise”? You can’t even drive to town without seeing the devastation of drought. It’s everywhere — just like COVID. How do you get away from it?

Be mindful of the idle time on your hands. For many, it will be a long winter. However, what if you were to think of this next seven or eight months as being a unique opportunity to invest in yourself? Possibilities could include travel, even with school-age children, accepting that COVID could be problematic. Maybe a farm tour?

Skill set development is another option. For many farmers, there is no real down time. There’s busy and then busier during seeding and harvest. This can make some activities that require a regular commitment of time challenging, if not nearly impossible. Could you use the next period of time to advance some management skills, or maybe something of personal development interest?

Much of what I have suggested comes with a financial cost, which could be a challenge given the situation. Another option, and one that may require little or no investment, is to look at volunteering at something that is outside the farm.

Be proactive. Try not to just let things come at you or come to you. Try to anticipate when the curve balls may be thrown your way and think ahead about what you could do to lessen the impact.

There’s no guarantee that proactivity will solve all problems. However, it will be better than waiting for things to simply unfold. Remember the two futures concept.

I suggest that you think of the 2021 drought in terms of business strategy. What do you do about the drought from a strategic perspective? Remember, strategy can be simplified as being a fancy word for plan.

For many of you, it makes sense to me that you would look at the strategic (planning) implications stemming from the drought, both in the short term (next 16 months) and longer term (three to five years).

For many of you, if you were to adopt this concept in earnest, it will help distance you from the noise. The “earnest” part is important. As much as possible, fully commit to this approach. By doing so, it will cause you to think forward toward a future that you have designed.

Terry Betker, PAg, is a farm management consultant based in Winnipeg. He can be reached at 204-782-8200 or terry.betker@backswath.com.

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