By Greg Doering, Kansas Farm Bureau
Land is the foundation of agriculture, whether it’s the fertile, deep soils along river bottoms that nourish row crops or the rolling hills of grass waiting to be eaten by livestock. Everything a farmer or rancher does begins with the land.
In Kansas, many farmers and ranchers have inherited at least a portion of their land from a family member and they have a strong desire to pass it on to the next generation. Tending the ground isn’t just an homage to their heritage, it’s also an equity stake in the future.
It’s quite an honor to follow in the family footsteps, especially when those treads go back a century or more. But it’s also a burden to be the owner and caretaker of the family legacy. The expectations aren’t just preserving the land. Instead, the charge is to steadily improve it and leave it in a better condition. It’s almost a sacred oath landowners adhere to.
Owning land is a long-term investment, and today’s farmers and ranchers use the latest research and implement the best practices to get the most out of their land while preserving its productive capacity for the future. They also understand at some point the technology they employ now will be as out of date as the moldboard plow and flood irrigation are today.
They’ll implement incremental changes and seek out new ways to work the soil to benefit their bottom line and ensure a stronger foundation for the succeeding generation.
Private property rights are crucial for farmers and ranchers to know they’ll benefit from all the work they put in to growing the safest, most wholesome food in the world. Owning land means having the privilege of deciding its best use.
Thankfully, the government can’t prescribe crop rotations, order a rancher to only raise a specific breed of cattle or pass legislation that every barn needs to be painted red. At its core, private property is about more than just owning land – it’s about having the freedom to create, innovate and invest in the future knowing you’ll reap the fruits of your own labor.
Appeals to the common good are nice, but self-interest is more powerful at aligning individual incentives to benefit society at large. Farming and ranching are businesses, but their success or failure is not measured by quarter or fiscal year. The real scoreboard is every successive generation that can find new ways to make an old vocation better.
Their ancestors instinctively understood land was not a short-term investment. Over the long haul, it’s a store of both value and values. Tending the soil and caring for livestock are required down payments for the reward of leaving a legacy. Stewardship is a way of life, and it all begins with the land.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.