WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

Blog archive

Down on the farm

I'm just back from vacation. It was mostly a few days at home to get a break from work. But we did see my wife's parents and help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

My father-in-law, John Graves, is a retired farmer. The farm is rented now but he remains close to what is going on there. During our visit he took us to the farm because he wanted to show us the peanut harvest. It was the first time peanuts had been raised on this eastern North Carolina farm since shortly after World War II. It has mostly been a tobacco farm with other crops such as corn and soybeans in the mix.

The afternoon we were there, the peanuts had already been turned over to dry in the sun. A tractor pulled a piece of equipment that picked up the rows of peanut plants and separated the peanuts from the plant. The peanuts ? still in the shell ? were blown into a large bin on the machine while the plant material was tossed to the ground.

Later, another tractor would rake the discarded peanut plants into windrows so they could be baled into large round bales. John said farmers in the western part of North Carolina were coming east to buy the peanut hay to feed their cattle.

Watching the peanuts being harvested, I couldn't help but think about the great adaptability of agriculture and how successful farmers embrace technology. My father and my father-in-law grew up using mules and horses to farm and made the transition to tractors. Today's farmers are using satellites and spreadsheets to run and manage their operations.

The Lancaster family rents my father-in-law's farm and they are constantly in search of new markets to enter and new crops to raise ? hence the peanuts this year. They also grow cabbages, strawberries, sweet potatoes and sprite melons. Who knows what they'll try next.

They don't change on a whim, of course. Like the information technology business, they have to consider labor and equipment costs, financial resources and whether the time is right to try a new product.

Whether it is IT or peanuts, business is business. To survive, you have to know when to change, what direction the market is headed in and you have to be bold. Otherwise, you're just playing in the dirt.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:54 AM

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