The trouble with vertical integration

On the Edge of Common Sense
By Baxter Black, DVM

There are those who say farming and ranching is a “way of life” more than it is a business. Which helps explain why young people who grow up in agriculture return to work on the farm. Working the land holds a strong lure.

Of course, it also explains why young people who grow up in agriculture become architects and sailors! They remember the return-on-investment and want to be as far away from a tractor and a cow as they can be!

Ray said he first became a rancher. He loved it, but he found that he had to work all the bad days. They waited until it started snowing on the mountain before they gathered the cows. They spent frigid days ridin’ the high country chasin’ cows outta crevices and thickets, suffering stiff fingers, frozen toes and icicles in his moustache.

He was often preg-checking and shipping calves in a bone-damp fall drizzle. He was calving in snowdrifts, chaining up to feed the cows and choppin’ ice on Christmas morning. It was followed by branding in the blowing dirt. Then, about the time they were ready to turn the cows and calves out, the weather got beautiful.

So, he became a farmer. He enjoyed farming as much as ranching. But he found that in farming he had to work on all the good days.

As soon as the birds started chirping, he was out in the field, breaking ground. Planting as the springtime flowers bloomed. Spraying and cultivating in the heat of the summer when he should have been sipping iced tea in the shade.

Harvesting cut into his fishing. Then, he laid around the house all winter because it was too miserable to go outside.

Finally, Ray had a stroke of genius. He decided to become a rancher/farmer combination! His brilliant solution to be a rancher on the good days and farmer on the bad days!

This arrangement gave him time to organize his business. He eventually became vertically integrated. But as he prospered, his activities attracted an increasing number of folks who insisted on helping him. He couldn’t make a decision or a plan a move without facing a barrage of regulations administered by helpful bureaucrats.

Before he could save himself, he went broke. He said he realized too late that vertical integration was just a means of doing business where the government could get at you “standing up.”