Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Wisconsin State Farmer
Bob Panzer

This past winter I had the opportunity to interview Earl Kehrmeyer of Fond du Lac, WI, a successful international business leader in the marketing of dairy genetics in over 70 countries. Earl gave me a copy of a book to read that was authored by one of his past interns, Rebecca Long Chaney.

The book “Bulldust in My Bra” is the story of Ms. Chaney and her husband on their yearlong adventure of working on ranches in the outback of Australia. The book explores the day-to-day operation of ranching and the many challenges that ranches face, with the adversity that Mother Nature and the markets toss at ranchers. Ms. Chaney asks one of the ranchers about the hard work and the hard living that ranching brings and the rancher replies, “There’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears!”

That rancher’s reply reminded me of an experience I had when working as a UW-Extension agent. In the 1980s I had given a presentation in Lomira, WI, to a group of sweet corn and pea growers on how to enjoy success as a grower, and after the meeting an elderly farmer told me I should have been clearer to the younger growers on what is required to be a successful grower.

I asked him what he meant by that statement. He told me that it takes more than the bull stuffing I had mentioned to be successful in production agriculture. He said it takes, “blood, sweat, and tears to make it in production agriculture.”

I got thinking about this remark and did some research on the statement I had read and had been told over 30 years ago. I found in my research that Winston Churchill made the statement in his Finest Hour speech on May 13, 1940, to the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, after forming a war cabinet to take on the challenges of defeating the Axis Powers that were preparing to destroy the English empire.

His remarks related to what he had to offer in this goal of victory over evil were: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” in the hopes of victory. Churchill may have also used this statement in a speech in 1931 and may have taken this statement from a speech Theodore Roosevelt made in an address to the U.S. Naval College on June 2, 1897. If you want to listen to the Churchill speech of May 1940, you may find it at the website

What does the statement mean to us in production agriculture? It is obvious that worldwide some producers do believe there is much sacrifice in order to be successful in production agriculture. The sacrifice of hard work, pain and suffering, and long hard hours are just a few of the sacrifices. The weather, markets, and other outside influences also bring about challenges and sacrifice at times.

I often hear young farmers complain that others in farming have it made, especially those that have been in farming for many years. I hear comments that it is just too hard for young farmers. It is too hard to rent land, too hard to buy land, too hard to get fair prices, and that it is just too much work to succeed as a beginning farmer. There are complaints that farming does not allow time for family, time for recreation, or extras for the fun things in life.

What is a young person to do if interested in a career as a farmer? I think it is important that it does require sacrifice to be successful. It takes sacrifice for anyone that wants to succeed in a business or a career. It is important to understand that sacrifice is required to succeed in other activities such as running a marathon, learning a new skill, raising a family, saving for retirement, and many other things that we value.

It is also important to take an inventory of your skills and resources. Locate someone that can help you with this task if you struggle with this step. Search out resources that can be of assistance in working towards your goals. Each generation has had their challenges and opportunities. What steps will you take in making decisions to manage the challenges and opportunities that your generation faces? Remember the words of Churchill as you move forward.

Bob Panzer farms in Chippewa County, WI and is a retired lender that offers farm management consulting in the Midwest and Great Plains regions. He may be contacted at 920-539-8728.