Well, you know the rest of it. I was clearly reminded of the phrase again in October when I traveled for a week in Moldova.

A friend of mine who works for the former Soviet Republic, located just west of the Ukraine, had asked me to talk to journalists about how to improve their ag publications. I'd volunteered for a similar project in Russia about 10 years ago, and I expected to see some radical changes due to privatization efforts there.

What I saw, however, was a process moving at a snail's pace.

Most of the farms I visited in Moldova are very small by U.S. standards — about 12-24 acres each. The soil is rich, but technology — even basics like seed and fertilizer — is woefully lacking. It's common to see horse-drawn carts next to 20-year-old tractors. The contrast is staggering.

But then there's Grigore Sandulescu, a former collective farm manager and now a proud landowner who farms about 2,700 acres with old, worn-out equipment. He's amassed that acreage from villagers who lease him their exceptionally small plots. He answers to almost 1,000 landlords who all think he should have regular contact with them. And he doesn't even have a computer to keep it all straight.

Sandulescu certainly has the enthusiasm and ability; he just lacks some of the major advantages and opportunities most U.S. farmers take for granted.

Which brings us back to “the more things change” theme. As farms continue to get bigger here, it forces large-scale producers to become better recordkeepers. There's too much money involved in today's operations to not have accurate accounting systems for production and finances.

That also holds true for small- and medium-sized farmers, but many aren't taking advantage of the opportunity.

If you fall into that group, check out Crop Check. It's a program that not only helps you track your financial and production records, it also shows you how your farm stacks up against others across the country. It allows you to see where you're ahead of the pack and where you need to catch up.

The program is free and online at www.cropcheck.org. For more details see “A Free Look At Your Future,” page 8.