“Hey, hey let's be careful out there,” is one of my all-time favorite television lines. It came from the early 1980s television drama series “Hill Street Blues.”
University of California Cooperative Extension long-time Farm Advisor Bob Beede only slightly resembles the character Sgt. Phil Esterhaus played by actor Mike Conrad on Hill Street who immortalized the statement in every opening scene of the series.
There is some resemblance between the good police sergeant and Beede. Both have receding hairlines. End of resemblance.
Nevertheless, Beede reminded me of that television sergeant in delivering a similar admonition recently at a grower/PCA meeting in Selma, Calif.
“Take care of yourself this year,” chided Beede in a good imitation of the concerned police sergeant at the opening of his presentation.
The growing season ahead will be a stressful one for most in agriculture.
Tumbling commodity prices, several far below what was predicted just a few months ago, have growers in shock.
In several cases, falling prices have not necessarily been caused by big increases in supply or drop in demand. The world financial crisis is having a huge negative impact psychologically on people. It is like the world has become a giant turtle, its head pulled in, refusing to come out regardless of the enticement put in front of it. People are buying very little, only what they need today.
Certainly there are valid economic factors for the financial morass, but it seems as though it is being made worst by fear and disengagement.
Not only is farming in a downward spiral, but everyone's retirement funds — including farm families — have been all but obliterated, adding to the stress.
The financial crisis is being exasperated by the third year of a natural California drought compounded by a judicial drought giving water to fish before people. Farmers do not like droughts, but they can understand and deal with them far better than they can understand fish taking away their ability to produce food for a hungry world.
It is not just the inability to farm, but farmers and ag supplier businesses have had to lay off workers, no doubt in some cases trusted employees whose families they value as much as their own.
Tragically, there is not much anyone seems to be able to do to turn it around right now. In many areas, farming is becoming a candidate for a television survivor series.
“Sgt.” Beede says to survive 2009 — back off when stress starts to overwhelm. Get away from it on a regular basis. Make time for yourself, especially when the stress becomes great.
Leave the stress in the pickup seat when you go home. Don't take it out on your spouse and kids. Don't kick the dog or cat. They did not cause the stress.
Don't take it out on your neighbors, suppliers and contractors. They are in the same boat. Take them for coffee and talk about something other than farming.
And most of all, “Take care of yourself out there.”