(This information is from Mike Caskey, Lamb & Wool Program Instructor, Minnesota West Community & Technical College Pipestone, MN)
Over the last 35 years I have had many speaking engagements all around the United States to discuss how we raise sheep in this region. No matter where I go, I run into producers who say "You may be able to do that in Southwest Minnesota, but we can't do that here."
Henry Ford is quoted as saying "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't you are right." For the most part, what you can and cannot do is determined by what you think you can and cannot do. My number one objective at nearly all of my speaking engagements is to challenge people to look and think outside the box they have put themselves in. On occasion we all put ourselves in a box of some sort, but once we start looking and thinking outside our box, we are able to accomplish a whole lot more than we ever thought possible.
With very few exceptions, there is a sheep producer within 200 miles who is actually doing what the majority claim cannot be done. People in other areas may not be able to do things exactly the way we do them in Southwest Minnesota, but I am convinced that they can come a whole lot closer than most people think. Unfortunately, until people are willing to think outside the box they have put themselves in, they will remain trapped and destined to keep doing things the same way they have always been done. It is called tradition, and it is difficult to break.
I challenge all producers to dare to be an "I Can" person. Although it is not easy to think or to be outside the box and be different than your neighbors, it can be worth the effort. The most successful producers I have worked with have been those who have dared to be different. They were not afraid to break away from the crowd. More often than not, they are contrarians. When everyone else seemed to be headed in the same direction, they thought and asked why and often chose to go in a different direction. I am convinced that being a successful producer is more about using information, innovating and being able to think outside the box than anything else. Once producers are able to think for themselves, they are able to make the necessary changes for a more successful operation.