Tag Archives: farm

It Goes Both Ways

Our trip to Brazil with the AFBF PAL Class 7 has shown us a lot of different things. There are numerous similarities between our two countries: land size, diversity of crops raised in different regions, the feeling of being over regulated. But one critical lesson learned was, despite our similarities, there are differences in the two countries and cultures from which both countries can learn.

It Goes Both Ways - PAL Class 7 Outside John DeereOn our last day in Sao Paolo, we spent the day with John Deere, a very recognizable name at home in the U.S. At their corporate offices in Indiatuba, we met with Greg Christensen, an Iowa native who has seen the benefits of going outside his comfort zone and working for his employer in a foreign country. Though not fluent in Portuguese, Greg is thriving in this foreign environment. Most international companies, like John Deere, require upper level managers to speak English, making the transition easier for Greg. He’s been able to pick up enough Portuguese to order us the delicious lunch we ate while visiting John Deere, but more importantly, he’s brought the expertise of being an American-trained employee to this developing country and expanding market.

John Deere has been in Brazil less than 20 years, yet it holds the #1 market share in combines and sugar cane harvesters – not too bad for a relative newcomer. Where they are in unfamiliar territory is in the tractor market. In the U.S. “green paint” may be enviable, but in Brazil tractors are referred to as “Masseys,” the obvious market leader. Regulations are a major reason for this deficit in the tractor market: 60 percent of all components of a tractor must be produced within Brazil.  Additionally, they are lagging behind the U.S. market in sheer size of equipment they can offer, another by-product of government regulations. Brazilian farmers want bigger equipment, and John Deere is trying to meet that demand as quickly as possible.

It Goes Both Ways - PAL Class 7 Outside John Deere FactoryWe also visited the new John Deere factory outside of Campinas. This facility was so new that we were the first group to tour it. There we met with another American, Chris Chitley, a John Deere veteran from the Dubuque Iowa plant. Chris has been in Brazil for two years making this factory a reality. The new plant is brightly lit – including skylights – a vast difference from the Iowa facility. It is a relatively small facility, so all components are brought in as needed so extra parts aren’t cluttering the production lines. According to Chris, they don’t try to excel at everything, but instead focus on three core competencies at this facility: large scale welds, painting and final assembly.

While we were visiting, a group of employees from the U.S. were training their Brazilian counterparts. Although there are a few language barriers between the two groups, the trainers said they were having no problems teaching their students proper procedures. John Deere has been able to find local talent to perform the work at this plant, so they won’t need to move anyone new into the area.

While Chris is getting used to his life in Brazil, he said there were plenty of differences in the office compared to the U.S. Here, everyone is much more laid back, and he starts every morning by walking through the facility, shaking everyone’s hand and talking to them. If he were in the U.S., he would start his day by walking straight into his office and getting to work. He says the cultural differences have led him be on the production floor more and, in turn, have made him a more accessible boss.

Americans, by nature, think we do everything the best way, and in some areas we may. Our regulations, while at times bothersome, are minimal compared to other countries. As farmers, we are the envy of other countries because we have access to the most advanced equipment. We also produce this equipment in a timely manner so it is available to the masses as opposed to a few. But Americans have a tendency to stay in our little comfort zones. We keep our heads down and begrudgingly get the work done. Brazilians, on the other hand, travel to the U.S. for school and to experience life outside their country. They take that knowledge back home and put it to use. Brazilians enjoy their workday by enjoying their fellow employees. There’s a lot to be said for both strategies, but the truly successful will find a way to mesh both ways of life together!

 

Joy Davis and Adam Hinton are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Joy is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher in Texas, where she and her family farm wheat, corn, grain sorghum, forage and produce cattle. Adam and his family own a farm supply business, coffee business and an insurance agency in Kentucky.

 

Thanksgiving on the Farm

Thanksgiving on the Farm - PhotoIt is truly hard to believe that winter is practically here and Thanksgiving upon us once again. Sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, there is so much to be thankful for. By Thanksgiving, our corn has been chopped and all of the hay has been baled, ensuring that our livestock will be well fed during the coming winter months. By Thanksgiving, the last of our cows and calves have been hauled home from the pasture in the “mountains.” The surprise winter snow that might have rushed us in getting the cattle out is now just a memory. The cellar shelves will be full of the produce that was canned from the garden and the deep freezer equally full of the beef that we had butchered over the summer. The woodshed will be (almost) full of cut wood to keep us warm.

But more than anything, I am so thankful that I was born into this farm life. I am extremely proud of the fact that I am a fourth generation farmer, and I am thankful that a farming heritage is something that I inherited from not just one parent, but from two. I am so grateful that my parents have always encouraged me to be involved with the farm. Growing up, it might have sometimes been by force, but I can’t imagine having been raised anywhere else.

As farmers, it seems like we see more than our fair share of struggles and challenges, but God has given us all so much to be thankful for. Sometimes, we just have to slow down a little to see His many blessings. So, as you sit down to roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, take a moment to think of all the wonderful ways God has blessed you and your farm.

As Psalm 95:2-3 says, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods.”

Have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!

Lucky Man

By Jeff VanderWerff

On Sunday, the upper Midwest saw some of the most severe storms we’ve ever seen this late in the year. While the damage was nothing like what the folks in places like Illinois saw, it was still significant around our area in Michigan, and my family was affected.

On Monday morning, I arrived at the “main farm,” where my grandparents live, and saw for myself what had happened: one post frame building destroyed, debris around the yard and no power. We spent most of the morning and afternoon removing building pieces so we could get equipment out, hooking up generators, and trying to get things up and running again. When the power went out, we’d had the grain dryers running, so on Monday we still had thousands of bushels of wet corn in trucks and bins that would start molding quickly if we couldn’t get it dried, and fast. As I worked around throughout the day, one thought kept creeping into my head:

I’m a lucky man.

My family is safe. My farm buildings and home are (for the most part) still standing. I didn’t lose any equipment. Compared to many farm friends south of me, I’m extremely lucky.

Lucky Man - Photo 1When I took to social media with pictures and stories, it wasn’t about looking for pity or a “hey, look at how bad this is” moment. I’ve decided that I’m going to share my farming life with the world via social media, and this was part of that. The good, the bad, everything.

Then, something even more humbling than I can put into words started happening.

First, it was text messages.

Then, the Facebook postings.

Finally, the phone calls.

Other farmers and ranchers all over the country were reaching out, contacting me, wondering how we were doing, how bad the damage was and asking if there was anything they could do to help out.

Then it struck me.

Compared to having a town leveled or losing half your cattle in a blizzard or having an entire crop lost to flooding, this was a minor inconvenience. And these people, these wonderful friends, many of whom I know only on Facebook and Twitter, were asking if we were OK and telling me they were praying for us.

I was beyond words.

And then, it hit me:

This is farming. This is what I do. And this – and they – are why I do it.

I am truly, a very lucky man.

 

Jeff VanderWerff is a 4th generation farmer from Sparta, Mich. and a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Learn more about his family farm at www.youtube.com/agsalesman.