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Resilience in a harsh environment

In addition to running a small dairy and dad working a full-time job off the farm, my parents were careful to make time to introduce us kids to the world of sports. Their biggest sports love back then was St. Louis Cardinals baseball. These days, the Cards have dropped to No. 2 on their list—sporting events featuring grandchildren definitely rank No. 1 now.

As a result of that early exposure and my own interest, I’ve used sporting stories and analogies in presentations throughout my career. Sports can provide valuable life lessons—the kinds of lessons we all can fall back on as we operate in a challenging agricultural envi­ronment. Among the lessons, my top three are the effects of passion, preparation and perseverance.

Passion is the energy and engage­ment we have for anything we do, from sports, farming and ranching to our professions and hobbies. Passion fuels our drive for growth and improvement in any endeavor. I know from my travels throughout MFA’s trade area that the farmers and ranchers we serve all possess this passion. You love to farm.

Preparation—physically, emo­tionally and mentally—can help us identify and capitalize on the op­portunities that are always present, regardless of the situation. Despite the many challenges all of us face right now, rest assured there will be opportunities.

A Cardinals moment that brings this to life for me is Jack Buck’s “Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy!” call in the 1985 playoffs. Ozzie Smith, well known as a defensive wizard, faced one of the game’s top relievers in the bottom of the ninth, Game 5. At that moment, Smith delivered a game-winning home run that pro­pelled the Cardinals to the World Series. It was the first home run in his career that he had hit batting left-handed. A stroke of luck, maybe. More likely, it was his daily commitment—his preparation—to conditioning, practice and scouting pitchers. As a side note, I should mention that the Cardinals reached the World Series that year and were defeated by the Kansas City Royals, so there was joy on at least one side of MFA country.

Perseverance has long been asso­ciated with farming. The cycles we experience demand it. After the ag­ricultural “Golden Years” we expe­rienced early this decade, the past four to five years have tested our resolve. Most recently, the challeng­es of trade wars, drought and then excessive moisture have impacted a large part of our trade area. This winter appeared to provide some relief with positive news on trade agreements. We got encouraging news from USMCA, negotiations with Japan and Phase I with China, all agreements that are good for agriculture markets. However, as I write this column, we are realizing the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most every market has taken a severe hit—financial, live­stock, grain and oilseed.

I know each of you, as well as MFA, will work through this situa­tion. We will lean on each other and do our part to improve outcomes.

Another example from the Cardinals happened in the 2011 World Series. David Freese hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th inning, propel­ling the Cardinals to the World Se­ries title. This after a two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Freese’s game had a few rough spots to that point. He struck out in the first and dropped a routine pop-up in the fifth inning that led to two runs and gave the Rangers the lead. We all experience failure or seemingly insurmountable chal­lenges. But persevering to the end usually reaps rewards.

Team sports are about collaborat­ing with others and using individ­ual talents to reach a common goal. That’s precisely what you should see from your cooperative.

We understand the challenges you face, and we know they differ from farm to farm. We’re here to develop individual solutions that provide you opportunities to increase profit potential in your operations—to make the best of the opportunities presented.

Yogi Berra had a way of putting things that propelled his state­ments into our common language of sports and life. In the fullness of time, those quotes have come to be known as “Yogi-isms,” and I think one of them is particularly worth sharing in light of events that have transpired over the past month or two. He said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Maybe not, but the future is what we think it is and what we make of it. I suggest continued passion, preparation and perseverance.

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