Dear friends, we have come upon the final article for the year. I have written and you have read faithfully every week since we started this endeavor way back in April. This is by no means a goodbye—our humble series shall continue in 2014, same bat time, same bat channel—but in the spirit of December and the nostalgia in the air, I present to you today The Greatest Hits of 2013: Mike Zwingman Reaching Out.
#10: Compaction: Nary a week went by without some mention of it. In 2013, I killed the horse. In 2014, I’m gonna beat it.
#9: Technology and You: Our willingness to learn and embrace new and emerging technology—and to integrate it successfully into our operations—is paramount to our futures as growers and stewards of the land. But regardless of however fancy or vital technology becomes, there is just no replacing the human in the equation.
#8: Developing the Plan: 2013 ushered in a time of tight margins. Planning (and execution) has become more important than ever as the difference between profit and loss becomes ever smaller. The chaos of April will bring tunnel vision—developing your plan in advance will keep you on the right track and support the health and wellness of your decision making.
#7: What Was Said Plenty of Times in 2013 But Never Explicitly: The spirit of what I’m about to write here animated every article, but looking back, I see that I never said it outright: The secret to a more successful season isn’t doing one thing 1000% better but doing 1000 things 1% better. Small tweaks and improvements in your system can bring great gains.
#6: Irrigation: Another drum that I beat and beat in 2013. As we enter a new year though, it’s time to change how we think about irrigation. We need to shift our focus away from the output and onto the system. Our obsession need not be on the number of inches we’re laying down but on the functionality of the soil/plant system that receives those inches.
#5: Cover Crops: These became my new favorite topics in 2013. I don’t know it all yet, but I’m learning, because cover crops certainly have a valuable place in the living systems that are our fields.
#4: Via La Brown Revolution!: Soil nuts of the world unite! So what that it’s a little hippy? The Brown Revolution is here to stay. Break out your camo and your granola and embrace it. Love your soil today.
#3: The Importance of a Trusted Advisor: Two heads are greater than one. When you’re looking for that second head though, find yourself more than a buddy. Find yourself a friend, a partner, a trusted advisor. If ever you find yourself in that tight corner, that’s the type who will be right there with you. Your needs, goals, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—your entire vision: share this with someone who understands and is invested in your long term success.
#2: Tell Your Story: More than 85% of people in the U.S. are more than two generations removed from the farm. The disconnect between users and producers is greater than ever, so our voices and our stories are more important than ever. Be an ag-vocate. Let everyone know what you do and how well you do it.
#1: Your Legacy: Of any topic, this is the one that I think most about, and the one that is most difficult to write about. I believe that the American farmer is the last of the great artisans of the world. We must protect this distinction with great care and pass our craft, our way of life, and our code onto the next generation. This, friends, is the true meaning of sustainability.
A final word: This doesn’t close the book on any of these topics. They will remain central to our conversation in 2014 as we strive together to change and evolve and we will elaborate upon those topics that prove most vital to the progress and success of our industry. For now though, friends, I hope that 2013 comes to a warm and peaceful close for you all. Happy New Year, and I shall see you all back here in 2014.