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Toban Dyck: Predicting those curveballs

Farm life brings more and more responsibilities. Only change is predictable

Curveballs are hard to hit, but when you’re given nothing else, you’ll figure out a way. You’ll adapt. You’ll play the game differently. At least, you should.

Farming is a continual lesson in this. It’s a day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out lesson in thriving amid constant flux.

The weather is different every year and you’re forced to change your plans. The markets fluctuate and you’re forced to change your plans. Machinery demands change. Input costs increase. New crop types and varieties emerge. New farming techniques are lauded as necessary. Then hail hits or winter arrives way too early.

Change is one of farming’s only predictable elements.

Some farmers tackle changes as the come. Others hold out on the hope that things will return to normal. On paper, it’s clear which is the better response. But in reality, dealing with change is incredibly challenging.

Predicting a curveball is a different skill than being able to hit a curveball.

Dealing with change is difficult. Since Jamie and I moved back to the farm in 2012, things have changed dramatically for us.

Initially, we were living in a mobile home on the same property as my parents. Life was simple. I helped out on the farm and worked as a freelance writer over the winter. It was great. I had this column. I wrote business briefs for Maclean’s and I had time to develop new hobbies, such as woodworking and photography.

Between 2013 and 2015, my Grainews columns were about the bliss Jamie and I experienced living in the country. The space, freedom, beauty were routinely overwhelming for us. I started to build live-edge furniture (something I would have never seen myself doing before we moved back to the farm), and we hosted a lot.

Today, life looks a lot different. 2015 was three years ago, after all. Since then, responsibilities on the farm have increased tremendously and so have my responsibilities off the farm. I keep saying yes and my workload piles up.

When I have the energy to do it all, life couldn’t be better. When I don’t, it’s overwhelming, crippling, terrifying.

Last week happened. I made it through. But it happened in a dense fog of heightened stress levels and impatience. I can’t recall a busier week. Once it was done, on that Sunday, I contemplated life in 2013 and I couldn’t help but consider the fact that I am too busy.

Things were happening on the farm. I had a Stanley Ag Society event to help plan. I had a Canadian Farm Writers Federation conference tour to plan and lead. I had a column due (which I pushed back a week) and I had full-time work at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers. The Financial Post column and my sanity were the only casualties.

On that Sunday, when I was able to step out of the fog and reflect on the things that occupy my time, it became clear that I need to better adapt to the way things are in 2018.

I treated my busyness as unique and used it as an excuse to sideline things I shouldn’t have (apologies to those waiting for me to respond to your emails — I’ll get to it shortly. Also, that auger needs to be put away. Fall tillage and fertilization needs to happen and I need to decide what to grow next year). To employ the baseball analogy, my curveball batting average is poor. Or, at the very least, it could stand to improve.

Life off the farm is at times quite demanding, though it’s all ag-related. I love it all. But it’s demanding. Farming and life on the farm has changed as a result. It’s become that thing that I fit in when I have time.

I have too much to learn about farming to take on that attitude. If I am to continue on at my current pace, I need to establish ways to not only cope with my current schedule but to find ways to remain a step or two ahead of it and thrive.

I know many of you are just as busy or busier and are coping just fine. You’ve adapted to the changes. It’s not easy. But, as Jamie routinely tells me, I wouldn’t want it any other way. She’s correct. She almost always is.

I don’t yet know how I’ll get ahead of all this, but when I figure it out, I’ll be sure let you know.

I’m honoured to be involved as I am in the ag industry. It’s a fantastic group to work alongside. And it’s a fascinating, fast-paced and smart industry that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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