Life has its way of taking different paths.

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As I write this column it comes with a different title—editor. As of Oct. 14, I fill the seat that has had a legacy of great editors who had high standards. Will I be able to fulfill those lofty expectations? Only time will tell but I pledge to do my best to keep High Plains Journal relevant to farmers and ranchers in a 12-state region.

For the previous six-plus years I served as managing editor. Working from behind the scenes I can assure readers the professionals throughout our operation are at the top of their game. Their skills and knowledge is far greater than I could ever gain in a year-long college course. I will continue to turn to them for wise counsel and I will listen to farmers and ranchers, too.

Our publisher, Nelson Spencer Jr., is committed to agricultural journalism, which is a great comfort. I know firsthand the economic challenge of operating an agriculture-based business is tougher today than just about any period with the exception of the 1980s. The lesson learned—good times are too short and the challenging ones are the norm. 

My career has been wrapped around agriculture. One set of grandparents were dairy farmers for many years and another set operated a Chevrolet and International Harvester equipment dealership in Wakefield, Kansas. My parents were involved in John Deere farm equipment dealerships in Hoxie and Phillipsburg, Kansas. I was old enough when Dad let my three brothers and me have a role so we could learn how business worked. I am forever grateful for that. It taught me the importance of the vocation of farmers and ranchers. In the era before debit cards, customers had enough trust they would let me fill out counter checks so complete that all they had to do was sign their name. Dad reminded me that it was a way to help me put a name to a face. He was right.

Growing up in the 1980s was a reminder of how difficult the times were with the product of double-digit interest rates that followed the high inflation of the late 1970s. When I reflect, those times were the toughest. It also gave me some important insight from an industry I love.

A corn farmer from Hoxie, Kansas, told me that trying to predict a future market price is difficult but knowing all the costs of planting the seed was the key to staying profitable. A Phillipsburg farmer told me to be a successful small cattle feeder he needed to grow his own feed instead of trying to buy it on the open market. Another farmer told me about the importance of having a good working relationship with landlords. Another farmer told me about the need to keep his machinery in good working order because that was his office. 

One of the best pieces of advice came from an accountant who worked with farmers and ranchers who told me that cash flow is the key to long-term success. That advice applies in all walks of life.

As I sit in the editor’s seat I’ll do my best to keep those principles in my line of sight.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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