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Keeping busy on and off the farm

Taking on a full-time off-farm job will add to Toban Dyck’s stress level, but will also add fun

Busy begets busy. I had no idea there was space in my schedule for another full-time job. Apparently, there was. Life is busy right now. But I love it.

I now work in the ag sector, collaborating with experts, professionals, and many other people smarter than I am. If you’re an adult and take the world around you seriously — recognizing it as a complicated mess of games and moves and things you understand and things you don’t — some recommend that you should surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. I’ve done this, and couldn’t be happier.

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Prairie dog standing next to its hole. These animals native to the grasslands of North America

Our small farm will benefit from this.

The crux of this column may boil down to a point as simple as, “it’s good to meet new people and keep yourself open to new opportunities,” but there’s more to it than that.

My world was smaller a month ago. It consisted of my farm, my home office, some things not relevant to this column, and some stale notions of how the ag sector operates. It’s not magic. That’s not what I’m getting at. And that’s not what I want you to think. But the ag sector is full of great, smart people tirelessly working to help farmers grow better crops at better prices. At least, this is the side of things I’ve been exposed to. I work in it now. It’s a world full of brains and optimism and energy. It’s exciting. And it alleviates the pressure of our small farm holding up two families.

More farmers than just me work off the farm. Of course this is the case. In fact, many farmers work off the farm, and make it look easy, like a normal part of being a farmer. It makes sense.

If you’re interpreting this as a pitch to get involved, I can sleep with that, though it wasn’t my intent. Off-farm work in the ag sector, for me, is unique. It’s plunging me through what many of you learned over the course of an ag diploma or degree.

I’ve learned to make my time count on the farm. When I come home for a sunny afternoon to work on the farm, those hours are full and purposeful. I do the things that need to be done with half a mind bent on how I could do those things more efficiently next time. It was once something I felt obligated to consider as the young farmer taking over, but now efficiency has become closer to a necessity for me, and that will only benefit my farm in the long run.

But it has to work.

“Mom and Dad, there will be days when it’s sunny outside, perfect conditions for working/tinkering on the farm, and I won’t be around. Don’t feel obligated to work,” I said, calling my parents about this job opportunity. “I want you to know that even though I won’t be home as much, I’ll still get everything done.”

I was nervous about this decision. I wanted to make sure my family was brought in.

It’s a family farm, after all. They approved. More than that, they were excited, knowing full well the inherent benefits that come with meeting a larger cross section of farmers and agriculture experts.

If I didn’t have other jobs, I wouldn’t focus on packing more work into a spring afternoon.

I arrived on the farmyard shortly after noon. It was a sunny day and we needed to prep for seeding. It’s not a ton of work, but putting the seed tender on the tandem is a ballet featuring a few barrels, the forks on the bi-directional, the grain truck and an intimidating amount of finesse.

We did it, with no incident. We’re batting 100 per cent — four for four.

Then, because there was time left in the day, we installed a new (used) diesel tank on our yard to make it easier for us to separate fuel costs during the growing season. I’ve taken on 230 acres of rental land since moving back to the family farm in 2012. We split some costs last growing season, but this year we’re attempting to mimic two farms operating independently from one yard using one set of machinery. But now with two diesel tanks. It’s a start, and it feels big to me.

We stenciled words “Toban Diesel” on it. I anticipate this will result in a nickname or two. The one that has surfaced already is my wife just calling me Toban Diesel, Vin Diesel’s younger, more muscular brother. The muscular part is definitely not true, and I have no idea how old Vin is.

The transition from my office to the yard is seamless and complimentary. Discussing agriculture concepts and policy and chatting with other farmers, then putting these things into practice on my own farm is invaluable. It’s chatting about the forest then working with the trees. It’s the 40,000-foot view then working on the ground.

I’m busier now than I ever have been. We still live in a trailer on the farm. I still want to take over the family farm. As of today, we wouldn’t change a thing. Well, it could dry up and warm up so we could get our wheat into the ground, but that’s just normal griping. Have a great growing season!

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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