Tall tales and yield totals

Friday, October 24, 2014

My mother-in-law had a saying: "The first liar doesn't have a chance." She was usually referring to harvest time when there are many rumors about the different "yields" each farmer is getting with their crops.

For those of you who don't know, the "yield" is the amount of bushels a farmer gets from each acre he grows. While there are industry and county averages, the actual yields vary widely from year to year and field to field.

But they are important, because farmers don't set their prices. We can't control the weather, the markets, breakdowns or bad luck. But if we get a higher yield per acre, we can make more money per acre, no matter what the price. Just a little more com per acre can make a big difference between a profit and a loss.

And of course, just like fishermen who always describe the big fish they catch (and the ones who get away), there are always a few who seem to quote phenomenal yields, some of which are true and others of which may be exaggerated.

I've always related it to those Christmas letters many of us send out.

I might send out one like this:

"Dear Family and Friends,

Well, this year has been pretty good at our house. First, little Susie finally got potty trained. We are so proud of her. No more diapers. Her third grade teacher is also very happy about it and hopes next year, she may even learn to keep her pants dry. We're also proud of our son, Johnny. He finally made it out of juvenile hall and came home. He's only set one fire this year and the fire department was able to put it out quickly. We still have three rooms we're able to live in, so we feel very fortunate.

I am doing well also. I haven't had a drink in 10 hours now and the kids say they really can tell a difference. Hubby is in good shape as well and promises all his affairs are over. No more other women. We also are excited about the financial crisis. Apparently they are going to let us keep our home (all three rooms) for a few more months. Hope your family is doing as well as ours.

Merry Christmas."

But of course, there I go and exaggerate just a little to make my family sound better and then get a letter from the second liar.

"Dear Family and Friends,

This year has been super fantastic at the Smith house. Our 7-year-old Angelina graduated from college and is now starting her master's in Advanced Mathematical Concepts. Our older son, Samuel is planning on going to medical school, as soon as he finishes law school and passes the bar exam. He is almost 13, but we are still so proud of him.

I am now dealing with the 'empty-nest' syndrome after many long years of raising my children. Of course people comment every day about my size 2 body, but those of you who have been life-long friends remember when I was a size O! My husband, Herbert has just retired from AIG. He received an awesome retirement package. Apparently now the company is having problems, but we really don't have time to keep up with the news.

Well, Happy Holidays our friends and please if you are ever in the neighborhood, think of us. The Smiths."

So keeping those letters in mind, I try really hard to remember my mother in law's advice when it comes to crop yields.

But in 2004 (which was a phenomenal year yield-wise), I heard my husband (who never tells his yields) and another farmer talking.

"It even seems like the poorer the ground quality, the better the yields, doesn't it," said Farmer Joe.

"Oh yes," said Hubby, "it's true."

So there I was putting diesel in my truck one day, when a farm owner drove up. We started talking about the great year farmers were having and I was careful to remember my mother-in-law's advice. I was even trying to be humble (unlike my before mentioned Christmas letter.)

Thinking back to my husband's conversation, I said, "Yes, it seems like this year the poorer the farm ground, the better the yield."

The farm owner didn't seem too happy about my statement.

"Well," he huffed. "I guess I must really have poor ground because it averaged 223 bushels of com an acre!"

(For those that don't know, that is a great yield!)

"Wow, you really do own bad ground," I said, before I had time to cut my tongue out.

My mother-in-law had another saying, "You should have been listening, instead of talking."

Wow, my mother-in-law was a wise woman. I wonder if her son ever wishes he married someone like her?

This article was originally published in The Marshall Democrat-News Oct. 22, 2008.