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CCFB News» April 2023

Downwind"End of an Era"

04/03/2023 @ 8:00 am | By Bob Rohrer, Manager


In July of 2015, I wrote a Downwind column entitled “Making of a Superhero” with the follow-up Downwind column in June 2016 entitled “And the rest of the story”.


These articles helped chronicle what I characterized at the time was an “inappropriate gift” by my wife and I and what Mom did with that gift. The gift was a new beehive to my non-beekeeping mother. Consequently, she had many “adventures” raising bees and harvesting honey. (Some of our children and friends privately confided in us that it was possibly the worst gift ever!)


And now, “the end of the story”. After eight years, Mom decided to retire from the challenges of the keeping. She did it as a hobby. One hive. The honey distributed as a special treat to family and friends.


Mom tried to retire from beekeeping a couple years ago following a frustrating summer of attempting to keep her bees and beehive alive and functioning. As most beekeepers can attest, hive failure happens. No more bees.


It was a forced retirement, not on her own terms. But she wasn’t ready start over. However, the vacant beehive became re-habitated by a wandering colony of “migrant” bees that took refuge in the hive and stayed…Beekeeping resurrection! A few more years of honey ensued.


This time around, the beekeeping retirement decision was made on Mom’s own terms. The retirement will be permanent. She gave away that colony of “migrant” bees…they headed down the road to a friend and fellow beekeeper. Her beehive boxes and beekeeping equipment was loaded into my vehicle a few weeks ago. A donation made to the Cook County Farm Bureau.


Part of me wonders about Mom’s “gifting back” the beehive to me and the Farm Bureau. Could it be my mother’s revenge? Or, rather than the end of the story, could it be “the next chapter”?


Here at the Farm Bureau, we plan on doing a little repair and applying a paint job to the boxes. Then, the beehive will be put on display on the property of the Cook County Farm Bureau. We will use the beekeeping equipment as part of our Commodities/Marketing and Ag Literacy educational programming.


Will bees inhabit the hive on the Farm Bureau property? That question goes unanswered at the moment.


I did ask Mom how she felt about beekeeping “retirement” this time around. She responded that her heart is “content” this time. Here is a big shout out to my beekeeping superhero… Mom! Happy beekeeping retirement!


P.S. I miss the honey already.


My wife and I went to dinner recently. An average middle-class joint. When we saw the menu prices, we said “Holy Chicken Nuggets” (or something like that). Some folks may believe with the increase in food costs has come an increase in farmer wealth. I know better.


The following day, I read the headline, “Farm Income to Fall Amid Rising Food Prices”.


Based on the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Sector Income Forecast and their latest Market Intel report, American Farm Bureau Federation economists provided in-depth analysis of the drop in income farmers are facing, despite record food prices. And lest anyone question the facts, the USDA is considered a nonbiased data source.


The key takeaway is that U.S. farmer net farm income is forecasted to fall almost 16% (adjusting for inflation shows an even greater drop) while farm costs are expected to increase more than 4% following record increases in production expenses last year.


•             Cost of supplies are following and exceeding inflationary levels.

•             Labor and wages are increasing costs.

•             Interest rates are rising which increases operating loan expense as well as real estate debt.

•             Energy, as such an important part of all farm operations in the cost of electricity, natural gas, propane, and energy-based fertilizers, are all high-priced ticket items.


I am not an economist but, “Hello”! There is no direct link between food prices and food production.


My message to consumers: Please take it easy on the Farmers. Despite food price increases, farmers are not getting richer, and many are struggling with the increased costs identified above. Financial pressures have a way of “beating up” people physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. Farmers are no different. And with their more individualized lifestyle, mental health can become an issue.


My message to Cook County farmers… Each of you is Important. Necessary. Needed.


Checkout  more on food prices and inflation at LINK. FarmWeek Senior Commodities Editor, Daniel Grant, FarmWeek Publication, wrote a series of articles that did a great job of identifying cause and impact with food inflation and other factors. We took the liberty of reprinting key portions of his articles for your informational benefit. Enjoy!

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