When our kids were younger and the unexpected would strike, the first question to come from them was, “What now, Mom?”

Whitehurst marci
Freelance Writer
Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can foll...

I remember one time we were trying to make it back to the house before the snowstorm drifted our lane shut, but our four-wheel drive was no match for the high winds, and I sank into a drift about half a mile from the house.

“Are we stuck?” asked the middle kid.

“We stopped moving,” said the oldest.

“What now, Mom?” asked the youngest.


They wanted to walk home, but the visibility was poor, and even that short distance could’ve been dangerous.

Thank goodness for cellphones, because I was able to call my husband, and he came to get us out. As soon as we were out, the wind filled the hole with snow.

We’ve had many moments over the past couple decades where “What now?” was uttered:

  • When we replaced the pump in our ditch that fed our wheel line and K-lines, and the tractor got a little too close to the edge and ended up in the ditch with the pump …
  • When a snake suddenly appeared in our basement …
  • When a bird flew down the chimney and came out the fireplace …
  • When something spooked the cows in a field and they crashed two fences to get away … (It ended up being a mountain lion, so the fences seemed minor when no cows were hurt.)
  • When we planned on moving one direction and didn’t …
  • When the rains came down and the floods came up …
  • When the rains didn’t come and drought came up …

Right now, we are in an interesting place with the cattle market. Perhaps by the time this goes to print, it may have changed, but right now the number of available cattle is lower, the prices are higher and feed prices are still elevated from drought.

What now?

The agriculture market is no stranger to fluctuation. We as producers understand the variables of weather and feed. We have strategies in place for What ifs, but it also adds an element of stress. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and stress is important to recognize in agriculture.

One rancher remarked to me, “This is just how life is. It’s been like this for a long time, and we just need to deal with it.”

While I understand that comment and, yes, we do just need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps at times, we also have a lot of decisions to make and information available to us with social media, news reports, radio, magazines, TV, podcasts … I love every one of these platforms. This very magazine is a gift to us.

In addition, many of us have kids who share what they hear. In high school, our kids were required to listen to a particular TV network for one class. It was our least favorite network. The kids would come home and say, “Did you know that this network said that ranchers are responsible for methane in our atmosphere?” They were frustrated because not all factors were taken into consideration, such as pollution from vehicles.

We spent many suppertimes going over policies and what we believed and how we could honor others without compromising our own values. What we found to be most important: Know your core values.

We need to know what we stand for and what we don’t. That way, when the “What now?” question arises, we can assess it from our core values.

Of course, when I got stuck in the snow, I wasn’t assessing core values; that was simply the best course of action to handle the weather in the immediate moment. There are immediate “What nows?” and bigger picture “What nows?”

Uncertainty is looming in many areas, and there are things that are out of our control. However, as we plan to the best of our ability, it’s more than okay as adults to still ask, “What now?” As a result, you might discover your core values. Some of our core values are:

  • Faith in God and His ways
  • Family time – making time for each other a priority
  • Honesty
  • Following through on what we say we’re going to do
  • Leaving a legacy to the next generation – hopefully by our prayers and actions, as well as with an inheritance of some kind

We aren’t perfect by any means, so sometimes we have to say, “That didn’t work. Let’s do something different or try again.”

When the “What nows?” come, if they are more than a little thing, like getting to the house in a snowstorm, then may we assess what we know to be true, what our core values are and proceed forward as best we can. If we don’t know what comes next, then let’s work on it together. Agriculture is too important to go it alone.