Saying good-bye to good help

Saying good-bye to good help

A farmer earlier this year wondered how many acres he would be able to plant this season. But he also had another question on his mind: If he cut back on farming the same amount of rented land he had in previous seasons, would he have enough work to keep all his farm crew this season?

The farmer was at a Georgia commodity economics meeting in February when he said this. At the time, I reported his concerns and ideas on what his crop mix might be this year and why. In a year of relatively suppressed commodity prices, there are many questions. He faced an understandable dilemma at the time.

In the reporting, I didn’t include his concern for keeping all his farm help. He didn’t stay on the subject of his crew long. In passing, he said it was the best three-man, full-time crew he’d had in years. Finding and keeping good help is tough. Once a good crew is pulled together, making a decision to downsize becomes even tougher.

Like I said, I didn’t focus the reporting on his farm crew concern. But I’ve recently thought back to that conversation as planters hit Southeast fields. I wonder now what the farmer decided to do about his crew.

You can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends, my Granddaddy told me on more than one occasion, and you’ll be judged by both if you don’t walk carefully. And if I am ever marched in front of a judge to account for some of my friends, well, I’ll need a good lawyer. Family, though. You can’t do much about that. Judge on.

Professionally, however, I’ve had dumb luck and good fortune to collaborate with individuals who had such strong work ethic and honed skills I couldn’t help but be a better worker just by hanging around. Excellence rubs off on you. And if you are lucky enough to get near it – either by hook, crook or careful planning -- do it. And when you do, hope in some small way the person was better for being around you.

I don’t know if the farmer had to let someone go or if he added another guy. He went with the best decision for the business and keeping a farm in business is a challenge.

I’ve thought about calling the farmer back today to find out his final decision, but I decided not to do it. I like to think he and the full crew now are planting fields and planning their next move. But if he did have to let a man go, I like to imagine it went something like this as they parted ways:

The two men shake hands with mutual respect.

“Appreciate it, and I’ll be seeing you. You got my number and feel free to call. If you need any help, keep me in mind,” the man said.

“You’ll be the first person I call when I do,” the farmer said.

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