Monday, September 17, 2012
Marcus Carey’s On the Marc: America’s prime resource could be your personal opportunity
Did you feel the chill in the air this weekend? It was the last weekend of summer, and as Earth begins its annual turn away from the sun, cooler air begins to blow across the Central Plains, rushing down from Canada and settling into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. While this time of year might inspire a little more time with your fingers around a cup of coffee on the deck, a hot chocolate at a ballgame or a warm mug of cinnamon cider at a pumpkin patch, it ought to inspire you to look around.
As the manufacturing economy of America is forced to bow before the cheap labor of emerging countries, we need to look around us and recognize the incredible bounty that this richly fertile continent offers. Unlike the sands of the Middle East, the congested cities of western Europe, the rare open space in the cities of Asia, we here in Kentucky can drive less than two hours from almost anywhere in the Commonwealth and escape to the forests, stare from mountain tops, float down wild rivers or sit beneath a shade tree and collect the smells of farm country in our nostrils, where they can then excite our connection with the earth.
I want you to go to a pumpkin patch. I want you to go to a farmers market. I want you to experience the self-reliance of farm owners in Kentucky and try to wrap your mind around the rural world. And why do I want you to do this? First because it is good for your soul. Second, because in today’s market, farm land is a steal.
You see, I am trying to awaken you to the realization that what is going on out in the country is exactly the kind of “business” that people want to experience. Right now is the “Christmas season” for farmers. The retail stores in the mall all hold on until Thanksgiving. If December doesn’t make it for them, the rest of the year is a bust. They hold on in July, they barely make it in February. But after Thanksgiving retail has to make it or break it.
In farm country August through the end of October is Christmas season. Crops are harvested and taken to market. Retail farms hope people will come to buy beans, gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn and a variety of other products all farm- and fall-related. What might seem to you to be a nice drive in the country is like the parking lot outside a retail store filling up to some farmers.
Of course, there are wholesale farmers, too. The kind of businesses that watch the commodities market and plant what is in demand. Those guys are as much businessmen as stockbrokers. They buy land at a low price, buy and finance the equipment they need, find and hire the labor required, and then plant, tend to and harvest a marketable crop. The smart ones get about 15 percent return on their money in the way of cash flow. Appreciation of assets might temporarily be a thing of the past, but in the long run even the land they buy should be worth more than stocks purchased with the same money.
For most of you sitting in front of your computers the idea of farming is so foreign that you can’t even wrap your mind around the idea of starting that kind of business. But you WILL contemplate opening a pizza parlor, or starting a landscaping business or exploring a “work from home” scheme advertised on the radio.
But with the price of farm land at an all-time low, the prices for farm products at an all-time high, and the personal reward of working not only at home but on your own land and being part of the farm experience, what other than the sales pitch of competing businesses is keeping you from considering using America’s richest resource as your own personal opportunity?
In the next installment of this series I will share with you the kind of vision that ordinary, Central Kentucky folks had for their family farms that has exploded their original ideas into a multifaceted business that draws customers from several states away and which is scrambling to keep up with the demand for even more services and products as time goes on.
Come with me tomorrow for my interview with, and visit to, one of Kentucky’s best examples of how the farm life can, in the modern world, provide goods and services to others, while at the same time enriching the lives of the owners far beyond the kind of “public job” upon which most people focus.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.