Originally published on July 24, 2004


A couple of weekends ago, my family camped in a tent in my uncle's pasture.  We weren't alone. There were 30 other relatives all nestled into the same coulee of trees about 3 miles north of the yard.

While the food and visit were good, several commented on the isolation and tranquility of the campsite.  We all enjoyed the campfire, the coyote serenade, the deer and the wide-open spaces.

It was rejuvenating and good for our souls. My son, at the age of 11, participated in his first ever gopher hunt. He returned to camp with a swagger and stories that are akin to any great hunter. 

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and past drought have contributed considerable uncertainty and stress to the ranching industry.

My ranching uncles acknowledged these pressures, but were equally resolute in their commitment and belief in themselves and their industry. Such intangibles are never reported in the bottom line of any successful business, but are there in spades.

Howard Schultz, who developed Starbucks, told Fortune magazine in 1997 that "commitment and passion" were the keys to success.



Historian David Landes, in his book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, agreed. He concluded that "in this world, the optimists have it not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when they are wrong they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success.  Educated, eye-open optimism pays."

For those of us in agriculture, too often we forget why we do what we do. There is a sense of purpose and accomplishment in many of our tasks, which translates into a belief that is at the heart of any great business. Belief gives way to passion and courage to carry on.  

My uncles will be ranching well past the close of this BSE saga. They have weathered previous storms and are committed to carrying on. Their belief and pride is apparent simply in the manner in which they carry on.

I think I have finally uncovered the reason why ranchers leave a couple of the old corral rails on the ground beside their existing corrals. It is simply a symbol of where they've been and what they have lived through.  I could feel some pride in it all  something I would never have felt had I not camped out in the pasture.

Allyn Tastad, chartered professional accountant, is a partner in the accounting firm of Hounjet Tastad Harpham in Saskatoon at 306-653-5100, e-mail at or website All data and information provided is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that laws and regulations are subject to change. Consult your accountant for current professional advice tailored to your situation.