7 Sayings a Dairy Farmer Shared that Shaped My Life

7 Sayings a Dairy Farmer Shared that Shaped My Life

I recently attended the funeral of John Robert Rankin of Faunsdale, Alabama. Mr. Rankin was a well-known and highly respected dairy farmer that had a tremendous influence on the Jersey breed at Cedarcrest Farms in his 95 years of life. I had the privilege of knowing John Rankin because I worked for his son, Pat, at a cheese manufacturing facility that their family owned nearby. I worked at Southeastern Cheese Corporation in various capacities for Pat and his sons for almost 11 years.

My time working for Pat was the best “business school” I could hope to get. Pat allowed me to watch closely how he ran the family business, and he was always willing to share insights and wisdom with me. Pat also allowed me to grow my land business, while working for him. Some of the sayings he shared over the years have stuck with me. Below are seven that have shaped my life and influence how I daily operate my land business.

The time to do business is when someone is ready to do business. When someone is ready to make an offer, sign a contract, or move forward with a decision, you do not delay. Someone’s motivation or situation could change at any time, so you better take advantage of the opportunity and take care of business right then.

The best fertilizer you can put on a crop is the boss’ boot print. The principal must personally attend to their affairs in order to achieve the best outcome. Very rarely will a hired hand or employee conduct business to the standards that the owner will. You must be there, giving your attention to your business, in order to maximize efficiency and production.

You can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once. Charge customers a fair price, give great service, and nurture the relationships. If you do these things, you will ensure repeat business, and you can “shear the sheep” many times. If you get greedy or try to take advantage of them, you only get one shot to “skin the sheep”. People will always remember how you made them feel.

If you think you are irreplaceable, try sticking your finger in a glass of water, remove it, and see if it leaves a hole. This was a great lesson at lunch one day. Maybe this was a generic lesson, maybe this was to a self-important employee, but the lesson stuck. If you stick your finger in a glass of water and then remove it, the water immediately closes back up. The same is true of life or a workplace. Everyone is replaceable.

Common sense and common decency can solve most of life’s problems.

It’s God’s job to send the milk, it’s our job to be prepared. The dairy industry over the past decade has been very volatile. We never knew when there would be surplus milk, and when we would be in production. So we had to be prepared to run at all times. Part of my job was making sure that the plant was ready and supplied with the necessary materials and ingredients to be able to produce. We could not control when we would need to jump into action, but we could always be ready to jump. And our job was to be “prayed up” for God to send the milk.

You make the best decision you can with the information you have available at the time. Life is imperfect, and we usually only have the ability to see a snapshot in time and not the full picture. When making crucial decisions, you must use the best judgement you can with the information you have at that time to make a call.

I hope these are some nuggets of wisdom that you can incorporate into your business. I have seen firsthand how they positively effect business deals and relationships, and am grateful for my time with the Rankin family.

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About the author

Jonathan Goode

Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.


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  • Jonathan,

    Thanks for sharing the nuggets of wisdom. He was obviously a very wise man and a good mentor. Cherish and continue to share his wisdom with others and I loved the ones about shearing sheep and the glass of water. I’ll make sure I give credit for them when I share them as well. Be well and prosper greatly!

  • The best 7 advices I have ever had! My family had a long farmers bloodline. It’s been lost with my own family since my parents moved to the city. Love your article.

  • Thanks for sharing Jonathan. He was a wise man indeed, and very smart of you to recognize that and learn from it. I agree your time w/ him was a great education, one you can not purchase… Continued success sir..

    • Thanks for passing your friends knowledge and your ability to recognize something special when you heard it ! Hope you go far, real estate has helped my quality of life. One more, for you, remember this, most people do not want you to be successful, but, you can’t hit it if you never swing !! Old former baseball coach, B. Smith

  • Thank you for sharing that wisdom.

    I’m sure your mentor appreciated having someone who appreciated the value of his insights as much as you did, receiving them.

Pulse Question

Do you agree with government regulating or restricting the use(s) of water on private land?


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