or years, my wife has wanted to take a cruise. All I do is work, and I watched enough “Gilligan’s Island” as a kid to know how badly a short cruise can end.
I ducked the cruise with various excuses, always work related. Then I realized if I dropped over at my desk, after a respectable mourning period, Donna would take the cruise. I figured I might as well be around to enjoy it.
It took some adjustment. We’re two kids from Wyoming who grew up working — seafaring and relaxing don’t come naturally.
The trip offered excursions ashore at each port of call. One caught our eye — a taste of Norwegian farm life. It might seem like a “busman’s holiday” to visit an agriculture operation on holiday, but it caught our interest.
The farm we visited is a family operation. The operator spoke in flawless, accented English and had a dry sense of humor. He was a likable guy who would be right at home here in God’s country.
He outlined the challenges of facing the agricultural industry in Norway. It all had a familiar ring:
• The price of wool is so low that farmers sometimes shear their sheep at a loss but do so because the sheep have to be sheared;
• There is uncertainty every year over what the government will do in the farm bill;
• Someone in the family has to have an “in-town job” to make enough to support the family and the farm;
• There is a succession question as to who will take over the operation, as the younger generation may or may not have interest in an agriculture lifestyle; and
• Government regulations hinder what farmers can do.
We recognized in those challenges many of the same issues facing Wyoming ranchers and farmers. We have our own set of unique issues — water rights and predator control, to name just a couple — but the similarities facing a similar industry half a world away are nonetheless striking.
The farmer we visited also commented on government subsidies for agriculture: Where does the money come from for that? From the North Sea, he said. Oil and gas is Norway’s number one industry. Times were good when oil was over a hundred dollars a barrel. With the softening of energy markets come tougher times.
Another familiar tale to us in Wyoming. Our fortunes ebb and flow with the energy markets.
None of the challenges, though, dampened his spirits or his family’s hospitality. There, as here, being in agriculture requires a love of the lifestyle and the land and a “can do” optimistic spirit.
We landlubbers are now back stateside, aware that across the world enterprising people are facing the same challenges we see here in Wyoming.
Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22, which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at email@example.com or (307) 751-6428.