Be a net producer. Leave more than you take.
That’s really all I have to say today but I guess I should spell it out a little.
I have several options available. I could just sell everything on the farm. In some circumstances it could make sense to do that. I could sell all of the iron both from the iron piles and from the buildings themselves. I could sell the equipment I own. I could sell the livestock, the cattle mineral feeder, the fencing, the fence chargers, the hog waterer, the hog feeder, the pasture feeder for the chickens. I could tear down both houses and claim the salvage value of certain components of each. I could sell the trees either as lumber or as firewood. I could sell hay until my soil is depleted then scrape up the remaining topsoil and sell that to a housing developer. Then sell the remains of the farm to the next guy. What would be left over? Hopefully I would have covered my debt on the farm and put a little in my pockets. But then what? I have just sold my productive resources bit by bit. What would I do with my money? Go buy another productive resource to liquidate? Like a hunter stalking and consuming prey, one at a time?
How about this instead? What if I increased my cattle herd in an effort to increase forage mass and diversity? What if I planted more trees but harvested trees that are mature, sick, showing poor conformity or are just in the wrong place? What if I built brush piles to house wildlife? What if I focused, over time, on building new topsoil?
Money is nice. It really, really helps. Really. But money is just a tool. Products are purchased with production. The money is the common exchangable item between producers. For example, I don’t eat money, I eat apples…which cost money. But I am not the US Treasury so I can’t just go create my own money. Unlike the Fed, I have to do something to get money. I have to sell something I have in surplus. In my case, time. I use a portion of my time to produce healthy databases for a company. The company produces software to record information from heart monitors. Those heart monitors work to save people’s lives. So hospitals or patients give the company money in exchange for the service. And I get money from the company in exchange for my service (because I really don’t need a heart monitor). And I use the money to buy apples…and other things. I wanted apples so I helped make a heart monitor. The world is a better place because it has heart monitors it didn’t have before, along with other innumerable but often unseen benefits (I encourage you to read Bastiat to explore this idea further).
But heck with my city job example. I have acres and acres of grass. Grass is worthless. It grows anywhere there is rain and sunshine. Nobody wants it…or if they do, they want it to be 2″ tall with tees and greens spaced throughout. My grass grows several feet tall and it is the “wrong” kind of grass. It is essentially worthless so we have cows. We use the cows to add value to the grass. I am taking something of little to no value, adding my time to it (also of little value) and making beef. This is not a zero sum equation. It’s net production. I’m using my management ability to capture free sunlight and rain, growing grass, converting that captured solar energy into beef and using the beef by-products (footprints, saliva, manure and urine) to make the grass stand even more healthy. All while making the cows happy. It’s a win all the way around…capturing sunlight, holding and absorbing rainfall, sequestering carbon, keeping the cows fat and happy, feeding people and bringing home the bacon.
I am hauling some portion of nutrients off of the farm with each egg, pig or calf that we sell. No doubt. But I more than compensate for that by the addition of organic material happening with each grazing and rest cycle and through the nutrients mined, captured, transported and released by trees and deep-rooted forages. Our farm will continue getting better as my management skills increase. As our herd numbers increase. As time passes. The end product of my labor will be left to the next generation. They will have the option of continuing to producing organic material from captured sunlight and rain. They could continue improving our farm through their productive efforts.
Or they could sell it all and go to Vegas. It’s up to them.