Look closer: We have several reasons to give thanks this holiday season

This Thanksgiving winds down a season of bad weather, low prices and poor yields which Farm Journal columnist John Phipps describes as nearly burying thankfulness beneath losses, grief and despair. Hopefully, John cites the science of "cognitive behavior therapy" as helpful: "Not feeling thankful this holiday? Then just fake it. That’s right. Act like you are thankful even though you don’t feel it inside." 

Nov. 28, 2019  By Jerry Carlson    I'm not as eloquent as John, but I'm older. And I see several opportunities and trends for which I'm very thankful. One fringe benefit of being born on the farm in the depth of the Great '30s Depression: I've learned that families who courageously endure booms, busts and cultural clashes rise above these and rebuild. They emerge stronger and more determined. They often base their futures on historic economic and cultural values which the current generation sees as obsolete. And they break out of old farming routines to explore trending opportunities.

Here for your reflection are four opportunities for hope and thanksgiving:

1. For immediate brightening of your outlook, consider meetings with farmers who are enthused, hopeful and certain they're tuned into the ag technologies destined for rising profits. One such gathering is the annual ACRES conference in Minneapolis Dec. 10-12. There are also specialized farming workshops Dec. 9. Renewable Farming LLC has for many years encouraged and cooperated with the key speakers and exhibitors at ACRES conferences. Our team member Blake Carlson will attend the 2019 conference and retrieve ideas which we'll publish on this site.

Farmers and product providers who gather at this annual educational and trade show know they're building farm productivity on a long-term, biologically sound foundation. Not on a chemically-dependent, dead-end presumption. In previous ag commodity price slumps, we've seen how Renewable Farming principles including non-GMO and organic ag generally provide lower costs, more stable yields through stressful seasons, and thus more consistent profits. Plus, these farmers gain the satisfaction that they're renewing their environment, not contaminating it with persistent toxins like glyphosate.

2. Each season, we're seeing more marketing opportunities across the nation based on soil health and more nutrient-dense foods. Major food marketers are accelerating this trend, trying to catch up with families looking for healthier, fresher and tastier food. The "Food Revolution" is gaining market strength! Alert growers are on the scent of this market — they're not just feeling helpless at being trapped as U.S. corn, wheat and soybean exports wither in tariff battles. 

 3. Although the daily news drumbeat of cultural decay and bitter political divisiveness oppresses the patriotic spirit, here's the positive side: Seldom in American history have opposing parties and moral values expressed such brutal contrast. I see a rising determination among men and women who are anchored in historic American values of faith, family, democracy and free enterprise. They're saying it's time to fight for America's fundamental values, not cave in. Example: It's a rush of political fresh air to see the U.S. Congress vote nearly unanimously to affirm democratic rights for the besieged citizens of Hong Kong. This courageous stand, in the face of communist China's furious reaction, signals that our lawmakers concur on at least one principle: Democratic liberty is foundational to freedom. Keep in mind that Congress routinely polls less than a 20% job approval rating by American constituents. My usually reliable sources indicate more good news is percolating within the Beltway.

4. The unrelenting political attacks on free enterprise and traditional celebrations have clouded our hopes for two decades.  But deeper history offers hope that liberty and responsibility can revive. On Nov. 22, 2018, this website published a Thanksgiving essay recounting why "Your privately owned farm is the foundation for future American Thanksgivings." It contained an extensive excerpt from William Bradford's book, Of Plymouth Plantation, which documented how individual family farming transformed the Plymouth Colony from a nearly starving commune in 1621 (the year historians describe as the "First Thanksgiving" celebration) to a well-fed and managed group of individually responsible farmers tilling their own land. The reason: free enterprise, not socialist entitlement.

John Stossel of Fox Business picked up on the same theme with his Nov. 27 editorial on what the Pilgrims learned about free markets. The relevant point: As long as American farming entrepreneurs like you scrounge opportunities out of adversity, you'll build a sounder future. 

Another spirit brightener is this editorial by Tony Perkins of The Family Research Council. It also ties in with the Plymouth Colony and the spirit which attracted pilgrims and opportunity seekers to America.

In the farmland price crash of the early 1980s, thousands of farmers lost their land. Through the mid-1980s as a Pro Farmer editor then, I worked closely with many families as they restructured their careers and their farming operations. Many who lost most of their land told me in the following recover years: "Our family's financial struggle after the 1980s was the best thing that ever happened to us. We finally got our priorities in line with what's really important."