Thursday, September 15, 2011

"If you want to become richer than a banker, become a farmer" says top US investor

The message that the world of global food surpluses is coming to an end is now well understood. The news headlines might have recently been dominated by riots, the Arab Spring, phone hacking and Amy Winehouse, but food and energy supplies are an issue which be with for for many decades. 

Farmers are the people who know how to grow and harvest food, and, if we're all going to be eating in 20 years time, they will need to get even better at it than they are today.

From being a menial, low paid, dirty job with a bit of shooting or ferretting being the only perk, the business of growing crops and looking after livestock suddenly looks very different. 

Time magazine reports the legendary investor Jim Rogers as saying "if you want to become richer than a banker, become a farmer." They concluded that although being a farmer wasn't too sexy it will certainly make you rich.

It's starting to happen. While real estate prices in the USA are falling, the value of the average farm has doubled in the past six years. When you travel to farming country you don't see poverty, but prosperity. "The local banks in Grand Island, Nebraska, are sitting on a lot of cash, the Case combine harvester factory has a full order book, and the local GM car dealership says this is the best year ever, with customers who normally buy a Chevy Suburban trading up to a Cadillac Escalade. Prosperity is reflected in house prices as well, construction is good and Nebraska's unemployment is just 4.1%, a different league to the 11.7% in California. 

The same is happening in the UK, but perhaps with less publicity. Last year farm land prices in the UK rose 6% and have multipled by three since 2001. Land is attracting buying interest from farmers and investors, better grain and farm commodity prices are rising prosperity in farming areas, something which has not been seen for decades.

This bullish activity means there's value in knowing how to do farm successfully. The new issue of Practical Farm Ideas reveals a few secrets of the business, which when coupled with the other issues published each quarter since 1992 creates a total course in practical farming. 

Practical Farm Ideas in this issue shows farmers how they can reduce the time taken filling seed drills, fertiliser spreaders, and potato planters. It features plastic see-through tractor window guards which stops stones and debris breaking them; shows them how to make an extension for their pick-up bed so they can carry more stuff in the back; and how to make a lever handle for an electric drill which makes drilling awkwardly placed holes in building uprights easy to do. Altogether there are 45 workshop ideas which will help farmers do jobs easier, cheaper and better - ideas that are particularly useful now that we really do need the food they produce.