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Building a relationship with readers

At the start of the New Year, Toban reflects on his Grainews column to date

Thank you. From the foundations of who I am today and all that I’ve done in the last five years, I’d like to express my gratitude to you, Grainews readers and farmers, for being supportive; for listening; for engaging; and for being one of the most fruitful audiences I’ve ever had.

Don’t worry. I am not resigning. I just wanted to dedicate some space to say thanks! And what better time to do so than in the beginning of the New Year.

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I secured this column before Jamie and I moved back to the farm in 2012, and it’s been a key part of my life ever since. It’s hard to write about something like this without it seeming like a veiled attempt to pat myself on the back. This is not my intention.

On more than 15 occasions (I’m only guessing), Jamie and I have spent time talking about my Grainews gig. More specifically, how it has helped shape and mold me as a writer/communicator in the agriculture sector. And it has done exactly that.

I’ve written on a wide range of topics. You’ve allowed me to find my voice, cultivate it, experiment and develop as a writer, but also as a farmer.

I’m a strong advocate for the confluence of disciplines, meaning in this case that I don’t think writing and farming are mutually exclusive. Clear writing comes from clear thinking. And clear thinking comes from writing. Taking time to write this column has forced me to collect and express thoughts that otherwise may have stayed too fragmented to see the light of day.

This exercise has helped me problem solve on the farm. It’s helped me think on my feet, which, I’ve come to learn, is a large part of being a successful farmer.

We’ve become close friends, you and I. You’ve watched me move to Manitoba; learn how to farm; learn how to live in small community; take on additional responsibility; move into my childhood home; and become someone who writes about very different things than he did five years ago. You’ve engaged with me at every step. You’ve given me a lot, and I hope you feel the same. I’ve shared with you details of our farming operation and our lives on the farm.

Since beginning this column in 2012, when Jamie and I moved from Toronto to a mobile home that we moved onto my family’s farmyard, lots has changed.

I wouldn’t have my current job at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers without you. I wouldn’t have my column in the Financial Post without you. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to speak at an agrologists conference without you. Heck. I wouldn’t have received three national writing awards without you.

I’m not sure if it was last winter or the winter before, but whatever the case I remember clearly receiving an email from a Grainews reader asking if I was okay. She was concerned about me, as my column was missing in a few consecutive issues. I was tickled. (And it served as a good reminder to pay closer attention to my editorial deadlines.)

You noticed my absence and in so doing, taught me an important lesson. I’ve come to appreciate that in order for our relationship to stay strong, we must continue to talk and talk often. We do. But when we don’t, toxins, doubts, assumptions begin to enter our thoughts. That thoughtful and perceptive Grainews reader taught me this, and I’ve heard from many more, some of you wanting to share some farming advice; others just to say “hi” or “thanks.”

My writing is anecdotal. I won’t be dazzling you with science or cutting-edge agronomics any time soon. That’s okay, though. Science is not the value of our relationship.

I’ve tried to be as earnest as possible with you, believing that there are more farmers like me out there and that chances are if I find something interesting or challenging, someone else will, too.

As a farmer still tackling firsts on a regular basis, it’s reassuring to know there are others who haven’t fully figured out this whole farming thing.

In my experience, Grainews and its readers are the benchmark of writer-audience relationships. Farming is a complex animal and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about it with you. I’m not sure if it’s farmers or just Grainews readers, but it’s been such a huge honour to read your messages to me. They are thoughtful, considerate, encouraging and just plain wonderful.

I look forward to developing our already strong relationship throughout 2018. Happy New Year and, again, thank you!

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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