Submitted by Jason Tyrell, Ag Resource Specialist
One of the hardest things for someone to do is to leave their comfort zone. For some, that may be speaking in front of a crowd, meeting new people or going new places. For others it is simply trying something that is new, or that is foreign to their normal lifestyle.
When it comes to comfort zones and agriculture, many farmers and landowners have been in the same routine for most of their lives. Whether it is a livestock grazing operation or if the landowner is growing corn or soybeans, there are areas of new inventions and ideals that people are unwilling to try.
One reason some farmers are reluctant to try something new is because of the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I remember hearing this phrase growing up and have even used it in conversations myself. I was out on a farm with a landowner recently who said this to me as we were talking about solutions for resource concerns on his farm. After thinking about it for a little bit, I started to wonder, where we would be if everyone took that philosophy to heart. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, doesn’t just stop us from breaking things that weren’t broken, but it also prevents us from taking something that is good or average and making it great. We wouldn’t have computers that we could access at our fingertips, airplanes that can carry hundreds of passengers, and horses and donkeys would still pulling plows at every farm in the country. “Nothing GREAT has ever come from staying in your comfort zone”.
There are many farmers out there that are unwilling to try implementing the no-till system, rotational grazing, or attempting their hand in cover crops, just to name a few. I do get it on some levels. What if you try something and it fails? How long do you try something before you deem it a failure or a success? If my forage quality and quantity are ok, why change my system? What am I really fixing?
There is a difference between fixing and improving. You may have GOOD crop yields in a straight corn, conventional tillage system. However, is there no room for improvement? When did we as people stop striving for greatness and just settle for ordinary or the average. To get above the average, sometimes you have to get out of that comfort zone. Sometimes this means trying something new. It doesn’t mean that you have to completely revamp your entire operation all at once.
The first step is always the hardest. Just trying something that is new can be scary. Failure is always a possibility, but remember…. so is success. If you have been using conventional tillage on 200 acres, try no-till on 25 acres just to start off. Try it for a few years and compare the results. Same thing goes for cover crops. If cover crops are new to you, talk with people who are currently using them. Talk with local SWCD’s and Extension Offices. There are many different combinations of cover crops that you can implement on your farm. You don’t need to do it all at once. Change should be gradual; that way you can see what works for you and what doesn’t.
If you are considering rotational grazing, try and realize what you as a person can handle. If you can’t rotate every 2 days, then don’t start off trying to do that. Depending on number of paddocks, paddock size, size of herd and types of forage, you may be able to start at a 7 or 5 day rotation and go from there. Maybe there is a different type of feed or vaccination type or style. You never know what works best for your operation until you try it for yourself.
Next step is maintaining what you have introduced. Trying something just once is not enough. I have heard stories of farmers who switched from conventional till to the no-till system and saw a drop in yield the first year or two; however, it paid off in the long run and exceeded what they had been producing before. Cover crops will pay off in the long run as well. Soil health and reduced compaction benefits will turn into higher yields and less nitrogen application if legumes are utilized.
Not everything you do will be an instant success. Just remember to be patient and positive.
The last step is continuing what you have implemented while still searching for new things. Once you realize that there are new and better things out there, keep searching for more options to improve your systems and methods. Not everything is right for everyone, but you will never know if you don’t give it a shot. The biggest regrets people have are the things that they didn’t do. By trying new inventions and seeking new ideas, you are not just getting out of your comfort zone; you are expanding that comfort zone. What is new and scary, will soon become the norm. So I encourage you to go out there and “get out of your comfort zone”. There could be big rewards for you in the future.