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Guest Blog

Read about different aspects of the industry from a variety of perspectives.

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“Um, Hi. My name is Bob, and I’ve been dairying for 12 years.”

Group, together: “Hi, Bob.”

“Well, where do I start? My father was a dairyman, and my family was often the subject of ridicule. I even remember times going to school smelling like a dairy.”

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I am nearly 55 years old. My career with the USDA-NRCS enters its fifth year as of late July 2007. At my age, many of my colleagues in the NRCS came through the federal system three decades ago and now have 30 years done. Many of them are near or at retirement.

In many federal agencies, managers are thinking about the retirement of those in the federal system with 30 years of experience. Our managers do here in Michigan. On our ecological sciences staff, nearly two-thirds of our group of 15 is eligible for retirement. In fact, we have one resource conservationist with more than 43 years of federal service. That’s a long career.

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Recently I’ve been thinking about the beauty of a farm, especially for those living there. In the space of a few minutes, a farm may continue on or it may begin the slow march towards decline.

Within this last month, I visited with two dairy farmers with two completely different stories. One is about my age, 54, and the other is in his late 40s. Both are second-generation dairy farmers. Both have college degrees. Both have for their oldest children – sons. Both of these young men have college degrees from the same university as their fathers.

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One year ago from this last Memorial Day weekend, I stood in Afghanistan with my fellow warriors from the 10th Mountain Division. General Eikenberry, then the commander of all U.S. forces in that country, told us we were in a land far away so that our loved ones would be safe. In other words, we kept the war here in Afghanistan and in Iraq, rather than fight a war on U.S. soil.

I recently drove the 5 miles from my home in Alma and walked among the gravestones at our small cemetery on a bright sunny day. I began and ended my walk in one corner of the cemetery. Here, warriors having died in wars as far back as World War I are buried. And some have been buried as recently as our current war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Pulling up to the faded-red octagon stop sign, I happened to glance up. I saw the most awesome sight. The indigo-violet sunset floating across the horizon was truly impressive. The downy feather clouds seemed to glow with an aura of cool fluorescent hues. Three majestic blue silos completed the stunning picture.

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Success in the military is described like this: A mission progresses by defining the tasks, obtaining the tools necessary to complete the task or tasks and then determining the metric for defining success. The metric, therefore, is attainable at one level and desirable at another.

Generals have used this model for centuries. All military officers strive for the desirable but often will denote success if the task is attained. We might think of the model this way: Something is better than nothing, but it is not quite everything.

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