Executive Director, Ohio Livestock Coalition
Guest Blogger

It’s that time of year again — time to think about making your New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. If you’d like a little help, here are a few suggestions you might want to think about putting on your list. Perhaps more importantly, think of your resolutions as goals for the New Year, and do regular check-ups to see if you are on track toward accomplishing them.

Become a better listener. Make a point to ask questions and seek to understand when a friend, neighbor or “that lady in the grocery store line” makes a less-than-informed comment about food and farming. When you listen, they are more likely to return the favor.

Be a better neighbor and nicer to my fellow man. Remember when Grandma took a homemade dish to the neighbors when they lost a loved one or had a baby? If time doesn’t permit, a frozen entrée can make a quick supper for a busy family. And remember — no one wins an argument. Arguing to get someone to agree 100 percent with your point of view is an unproven and unsuccessful way to develop and build relationships. Civil, level-headed discussion can help acknowledge merits on all sides of an issue. Work toward develop a relationship that features common goals and respect.

Provide the best care and respect for my livestock. What can I do in 2012 to create the best environment for my livestock? If it’s been a few years since you’ve been in FFA, 4-H and/or an animal science class, invest in a refresher course to learn about the latest in animal husbandry. Are you familiar with the rules developed by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board?

Do one thing to make your property a better showcase for agriculture. People smell with their eyes when they drive by. What message does your farm’s appearance communicate about you and agriculture in general? If it was a billboard, what would the message be?

Plan a few days of weeding, planting some low-maintenance perennial landscaping, and mowing those waterways and ditches. A few hours can make a big difference.

Volunteer for a non-agriculture community cause. You may already be involved in Farm Bureau, your commodity group, your family farm and maybe your church. Consider taking that volunteer spirit into the wider community by joining your local Rotary, Kiwanis or Chamber of Commerce. You will make some amazing contacts, expand your perspective and connect in a meaningful way with people who otherwise may have little understanding or connection with agriculture.

Give to a cause that helps agriculture and your community. 2011 was another banner year for agriculture. Consider a gift of thanks to an organization with goals that support the sustainability of agriculture and your local community. Contributions to these non-profit organizations are often tax-deductible.

Take better care of myself and my fellow farmers. Nobody else can tell agriculture’s story with more respect than a farmer or a veterinarian. It’s time I take more control over current and future perceptions of farming and agriculture.

“People want to meet and have a conversation with a real farmer.”

To do so will take more courage — to open your barn doors, show your face and help people understand who you are as a farmer and what farming is all about. People want to meet and have a conversation with a real farmer.

Get in touch with my inner-consumer. People want to see, feel, touch and experience what it is a farmer does when it comes to raising the food they and their families will consume, and they have every right to do so. Assume the responsibility to provide the information in ways they want to receive it.

Be more social. Vow to make consumer communications a part of your everyday farm management plan. How much do you budget for public relations? When was the last time you invited farm and non-farm neighbors over for a meal and gave them a tour of the farm?

Learn how to use the online world to your advantage and connect with today’s consumers, as well as fellow farmers with similar values and goals. Understand that today’s consumer is three generations removed from the farm, which also means you might be three generations removed from a consumer.

To always start with “why.” People do not buy what you do, but why you do it. For people to trust what you are telling them, you must first give them a reason to trust who you are and the values you have.

Put your crop fields on a nutrient diet. People need to have a balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients to be healthy. Part of that balanced diet might include a special sweet sugary treat every now and then. This is fine in moderation but when eaten too often, the special sugary treat can lead to health problems.

Crop fields, just like people, also need to have a balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients in order to be healthy and productive. And the only way to know is to test on a regular basis.

Embrace the 4Rs. 4R nutrient stewardship provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals, such as increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability. To achieve those goals, the 4R concept incorporates the following principles:

— Right Source — Ensure a balanced supply of essential nutrients, considering both naturally available sources and the characteristics of specific products, in plant available forms.

— Right Rate — Assess and make decisions based on soil nutrient supply and plant demand.

— Right Time — Assess and make decisions based on the dynamics of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and field operation logistics.

— Right Place — Address root-soil dynamics and nutrient movement, and manage spatial variability within the field to meet site-specific crop needs and limit potential losses from the field.

Perhaps a better title would be the 5Rs — right now.

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