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What is Your Plan B?

All of us try to have some kind of plan that will make some sense of what we are doing. There are discussions of paddock size, stocking rates and density and all of the rest of it. But in the event that all of it, for whatever the reason, goes bad, what is our Plan B? A reduction of numbers is one option, or feed a lot of hay, or maybe just hang on and hope it gets better. These are decisions that each of us must make at one time or another. And if again, for whatever the reason that Plan A does not work out, and you do not have a Plan B, the chances of big mistakes being made increase more than we realize. We never want to make a decision out of desperation. I know that I am preaching to the choir, but I needed a lead-in to this story that I want to tell.

Two farmers sitting on bags of rice in Abbeville, Louisiana, September, 1938. Photo by Leo Russell from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Two farmers sitting on bags of rice in Abbeville, Louisiana, September, 1938. Photo by Leo Russell from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Back during the Great Depression my Uncle Gene was farming down in Ascension Parish below Baton Rouge at a little place called Brittney. My Daddy was a teenager at the time and he would go down and help his brother when it was time to pick the strawberries and snap beans and other produce that Uncle Gene raised. The produce buyers would come up from New Orleans and buy the stuff form the farmers for the packing companies located there. Times being what they were, it was in most cases a buyer’s market. The farmers would take what was offered and the prices just never seemed to be enough. There was grumbling and griping but the farmers always came back to sell their stuff.

On this one occasion Uncle Gene and Daddy had loaded the old truck with bushels of snap beans and drove to the loading dock where the buyers would do their dealing and then ship everything bought to New Orleans on the train. Now understand I have no idea what snap beans were selling for at this time in our history, so the numbers that I use in this narrative are purely to tell the tale. Anyway, when Uncle Gene and Daddy pulled up to the dock with their load of beans the farms that had already arrived and sold their beans walked up to the truck. With long, sorrowful faces, they began to tell the sad story of just how low the prices being offered that day had become. One of the disgruntled fellows said to Uncle Gene, “It ain’t worth hauling them beans up here on more.”

Uncle Gene asked, “What are they giving for beans this morning?” The answer came back one dollar a bushel. About that time one of the buyers had walked up and was looking at the beans in Uncle Gene’s truck. “Good looking beans. The best I can do this morning is a dollar.”

Uncle Gene came back with a counter offer. “I’ll take $1.25 and not a penny less.”

The buyer replied, “A dollar it is, take it or leave it.”

The old boy standing by the truck said to Uncle Gene, “You have to take it. What else can you do?”

Uncle Gene said, “I’ll haul them back home and feed them to the hogs. I can’t buy hog feed that cheap.” And that’s what he did.

Plan BNow I don’t know if this was a good move or not but Uncle Gene believed that he had a choice. The other farmers that morning either didn’t have a choice or didn’t realize that they did. Maybe they didn’t have any hogs to feed. So I guess if there is anything to take away from this little story it is that we should always have a choice. Never lock yourself into a plan that leaves you with no options.


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Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.

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