We have lots of choices when it comes to investing our money, and all the options have variable returns. We can invest our money in consumption beyond our needs, cars, electronics, clothes, things that depreciate quickly. These investments are not usually called investments, but they do offer a return, but most people would argue its a negative return. We can invest our money in a savings account, where we hope it will sustain its value over the long term, and someday we can use it for something meaningful. Some investors, seeking very high returns in a very short period of time, put their money at risk by gambling, or playing the lottery. While this is poor investment strategy, it is an investment nonetheless. We can invest our money in the stock market, via mutual funds or directly into a company like Monsanto. Some investors approach the stock market looking for short-term gains, and others are in it for the long haul. In either case, investors are seeking returns beyond the sustainable level a savings account offers. These types of investments are subject to global financial swings rooting in commodity prices, weather impacts and the buying habits of other consumers.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal detailed Monsanto’s plans to cut 2,600 jobs in response to a quarterly earnings loss of nearly $500 million. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant cites the downturn in the commodity corn prices as the reason for the loss, “When you narrow the lens to the next 12 months, the industry continues to face a challenging macro environment and we’ve moderated our outlook.” That’s corporate-speak for, “Run for the hills! Corn prices are falling, its every person for themselves.” While Monsanto stock holders have done well over the long term, the fluctuations in the commodity market and the agriculture industry in general are a reminder of the riskiness of investing in things beyond our control.
What if we could invest mostly our time, our energy and our intellect into something, with a little money, and get a long-term return without the risk involved in the global financial market, or the commodity grain market? What if we could come together as farming practitioners, consumers, and educators, and work together to invest in a guaranteed return?
When we invest in building our soils through the natural systems built into our environment, we are growing wealth financially, environmentally and socially. Communities with healthy, productive soils are simply better off. Actually, there is very little risk in this type of investment. Of course, weather can have an effect, but that weather would have at least a similar effect on land where the more “conventional” investments have been made. When we reduce tillage, keep the soil covered, keep roots alive in the soil, increase the diversity of crops on the soil and re-integrate livestock on that soil, we are making investments with returns that continue to grow, not only expanding the productivity of the individual plot of land in question, but also expanding the pool of resources to be used in the future, ultimately expanding our profitable impact exponentially. These investments are not dependent on global commodity markets, rather they are counting on the biological activity in the soil behaving as it has since the beginning. That’s a good bet.
Thankfully, this understanding and focus is becoming more widespread. Even Monsanto is starting to talk about soil health. I think its fantastic news when huge corporations, locked in commodity thinking, begin to see the advantages we’ve known about in our world for years. Let’s keep going, keep growing.