acreage living November 1998

ISU cooperative extension

In this issue: acreage living home page

 Who Really Wants to Change?

(Prepared by Wayne Kobberdahl, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Communities, Mills County Extension. Phone: 712-624-8616 - e-mail:

Mark Twain has always been one of my favorite writers. I particularly relate to a saying of his -- "You know, I'm for progress; it's change I object to."

Change can be stressful, uncomfortable, and can produce a great deal of anxiety. It can strike fear in the hearts of many people, who, for years, have developed patterns of living in which routine is most desirable.

Tradition is something many of us view as a positive attribute of life. Tradition has a way of bringing people and communities together, and often provides a sort of foundation we could revert to when times got difficult, or we needed some kind of serenity in our lives. It seems that when an individual or community loses its traditions, it loses a certain amount of cohesiveness that one could always count on. In fact, continuity, rather than change, is what many organizations desire.

Things "ain't" what they used to be. Change is now taking place so rapidly that what differs is not change itself, but the rate of change. Not only are things changing very rapidly, but we now create change. Our very attitudes toward change have changed -- so that change itself is considered desirable worldwide.

Robert T. Jones, President, CEO, National Alliance of Business, has contrasted some change paradigms that I think are interesting. They are found in the table below.


Standardization Customization
Hierarchies Teams
Job security-seniority Job security-skills
Job-specific skills Broad skills
Limited competition Global competition
One-employer career Multiple employers
Benefits tied to employer Benefits that are portable
Pay for time served Pay for performance
Big bureaucracies Small, flexible organizations
Brawn/Metal bending Brain/Mind bending
Mass production Small lots
Competitive standards based on cost Based on quality, variety, timelines
“Go it alone” Strategic alliances
Government solutions Public/private partnerships

Hopefully, we will not reach the point where change takes place so rapidly we don't have the capacity to assimilate it and it becomes counter productive to the extent that some of our traditions, foundations, and productive structures are undermined. I believe that when everything is considered, we will find that change, in the far majority of cases, is positive. Perhaps it's a good thing because it is going to happen whether we are a part of it or not. Since I believe that will be the case, it seems that as good community citizens we want to be involved in helping direct change to useful productive ends.

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 Increase in At-Home Workers Reverses Earlier Trend

(Prepared by Wayne Kobberdahl, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Communities, Mills County Extension. Phone: 712-624-8616 - e-mail:

Between 1960 and 1980, the number of Americans who worked at home steadily declined, largely reflecting a drop in the number of family farmers who elected to give up farming. But the most recent decennial census in 1990 shows a dramatic increase in the number of people who worked at home, up 56 percent from 1980, to 3.4 million people.

Conservative Estimates

The Census Bureau's 1990 estimate of the number of at-home workers is substantially lower than more recent private surveys based on smaller samples. For example, a 1997 survey prepared for Tele-commute America estimates the number of Americans "telecommuting" via computer from their homes to their businesses rose from about 4 million in 1990 to approximately 11 million in 1997.

The census data may be lower because they are based on respondents' answers to a question about how they "usually" get to work. Therefore, individuals who regularly work at home two days a week, but elsewhere during the other three days, are not reflected in the work-at-home census estimate.

From a separate survey, Characteristics of Business Owners, the Census Bureau reports that nearly half of the 17 million small businesses in the United States in 1992 were home-based. But most home-based small business owners said they worked less than 40 hours a week and their businesses were not their primary source of income. This is consistent with both the popular notion that more people are working at home and the Census Bureau's calculation from the 1990 census that only three percent of the work force worked at home on a full-time basis.

Increase Represents a Dramatic Reversal

Despite the Census Bureau's conservative method of counting at-home workers, the 1990 increase in the number of Americans who worked at home represents a dramatic reversal of the previous 20-year trend. Between 1960 and 1980, the steep decline in the number of family farmers and the growing tendency of professionals to leave their home offices and join group practices or larger firms in office buildings resulted in a loss each decade in the number of at-home workers.

From 1960-70, the number of people who worked at home dropped by almost 2 million to 2.7 million, a 42 percent decline. Similarly, during the 1970-80 period, there was a drop of about another 500,000 to 2.2 million people, a 19 percent decline.

Most Who Work at Home Are Self-Employed

The primary difference between those who worked at home and those who worked away from home was the source of employment. More than half the workers who labored in their home (54 percent) were self-employed in 1990, ten times the rate of self-employment found among those who worked away from home. Conversely, only 36 percent of those who worked at home were employed by private-sector companies, versus 77 percent of those who worked away from home.

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 Preparing for The Holidays

Mary Beth Kaufman(Prepared by Mary Beth Kaufman, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Family Resource Management, Shelby County Extension. Phone: 712-755-3104 - e-mail:

Although it may seem early, it is time to begin planning for the holiday season. Failing to plan can lead to overspending which in turn causes stress and guilt when you struggle to pay the bills in January.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that promotes holiday spending and allows us to believe there are no limits. We all know this isn't true, but the emotions and temptations of the season can bring on compulsive behavior in the best of us. Planning ahead can make this year different. Some experts believe cutting your usual holiday expenditures in half is possible for most families - if you plan ahead.

Here are some shopping strategies that may help you gain control:

1. Have a "money dialogue" with yourself before you go shopping. Tell yourself that spending won't help make you feel loved, successful, or accepted.

2. Set a realistic budget and carefully track each purchase to make sure you do not go over your spending limit.

3. Get support from family and friends when you feel tempted to overspend.

4. Carry only cash and when it is gone, your shopping spree is over.

5. Avoid the mall. For an overspender, cruising the mall is like going to a bar for an alcoholic or the casino for a gambler.

6. Walk away when you find the "perfect gift" that is too expensive. Give yourself a day to cool off and return to your senses.

7. Put your credit cards on ice until the holidays are over. Simply put all your credit cards in a container filled with water and freeze them. By the time they thaw out, the temptation to over-spend will have passed.

Controlling your spending does not mean you have to give up the fun of giving and receiving gifts. There are ways to show love and caring without spending lots of money. Here are a few ideas:

• Have the entire family participate in making a "family gift" for relatives and friends.

The possibilities are endless.

• Give the gift of time. Design a fancy gift certificate that includes the details for redemption.

Some suggestions might be babysitting for a new parent, making dinner for a busy family, or planning weekly visits with a lonely friend or relative.

• Agree to give "pre-owned" or "recycled" gifts. This is environmentally friendly as well as practical. It can also be great fun.

• Reframe favorite family photos. Painting and decorating frames can involve the whole family--even little kids.

• Use Sunday comics to wrap gifts, recycle gift bags, boxes, and ribbons, and use your creativity to make gift giving unique and personal.

Two books that might help you get started on the road to change are Overcoming Overspending by Olivia Mellan and Simplify Your Christmas by Elaine St. James. Check your public library or a local bookstore.

And remember IT'S WORTH THE EFFORT to cut expenses and the good news is - it gets easier every year.

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The Difference Between a $1.85 and $2.30 Corn Price

(Prepared by Tim Eggers, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Farm Management, Page County, Phone: 712-542-5171 - e-mail:

As you know, my column in this newsletter is more of an over-the-fence discussion. I hope to increase understanding of current terms your farming neighbors are using and the current situations they face so you feel more comfortable building relationships with them.

In the September issue of Acreage Living, we discussed macro-economic reasons for the current farm profitability problem. In this article, we will discuss the micro-economic reasons. While the fundamental reasons for what is currently being called a farm crisis by some are quite simple, the results will be complex.

Farming is a business that many enjoy because of the lifestyle it allows. Given that farming is a business, it must be profitable to be sustainable. When the costs of production are greater than prices received, it is not profitable. Given current prices and cost structures, most common enterprises like corn, bean, and most phases of beef and pork production are unprofitable. One year of negative profitability will not force all farmers out of business, but it does mean that farmers will need to pull money out of equity. For insolvent or liquid operations, that may mean they will go out of business.

Costs and Returns

Estimated costs of producing an acre of corn in a corn soybean rotation are $297 - $377 according to the Iowa State University Extension "Estimated Costs of Crop Production" FM-1712. This takes into account all cash flow and economic costs, but not family living. Given this year's excellent growing season for corn, many farmer's yields are greater than normal. If we pick the 135 bushels as a yield goal, we would expect the average producer's costs of production to be $333 per acre. If the farmer's actual yield were 145 bushels, their cost of production would be $2.30 per bushel.

Cash corn prices on the day this article was written were $1.85 in Council Bluffs. This would result in a shortfall of $64.75 per acre for a farmer selling corn on that day. March corn futures closed at $2.38 per bushel on the day this was written. If the corn were sold in mid-February, we would expect a $0.21 basis. That gives us a cash price estimate of $2.17 for mid-February. We would expect on-farm storage to cost about $0.09 and commercial storage to cost about $0.20 for that time period. This suggests that if the grain is put in storage and contracted for sale in mid-February returns would be $286-$301 per acre. This would give our farmer a shortfall of $32-$47 per acre. Government farm program payments are significant, but they have not been considered in this discussion.

The next article on this subject in Acreage Living will discuss how this cash flow crunch will result in great difficulties for some farmers and opportunities for others.


Acreage Living is published monthly. For more information, contact your local county ISU Extension Office.
Editor: Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension FS/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa, 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600
Layout & Design: Paulette Cambridge, Office Assistant, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600

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