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Making the big move

Living in limbo is hard, but so is making a huge change

Things are changing for my wife and me. We moved back to the farm in our 30s with a rough plan for how taking over the family operation could unfold. That was in 2012. That plan has changed, and it’s currently unfolding. At least, in part.

I’ve been here before. I know how to compose myself. I don’t know what will come next, but I do know that once the world stops spinning, things will come into focus. Right now, my days are a series of fast-paced, blurred, disparate actions. Right now, I’m caught up in change and I don’t know where I’ll land.

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Farmer holding soybean

This column is about farming. But this column is also about change. We’re in the thick of it. The meat. And right now, it feels too real to take lightly and too surreal to consider seriously.

I know what white mould looks like in soybeans. I didn’t before 2012. I can identify symptoms of root rot, water stress and bacterial blight on soybeans, as well. I couldn’t before 2012.

And, if you remember from a previous column, I know with an unsettling degree of intimacy, what gophers can do to a crop. (I also know how to manage that problem — I’d say more but I don’t know who’s listening in on this conversation.) I didn’t before this year.

I out myself as a green, new-to-it-all farmer on a regular basis in this column. But at what point should that change? I have an off-farm job in the ag sector now, surrounded by smart people who know lots about growing crops, transporting crops and developing sound policy surrounding crops. And I’ve learned a thing or two.

The big change

My parents bought a house in town. My wife and I will be moving from the mobile home we purchased through Kijiji in 2012 to the home I grew up in. My trumpet is exactly where I left it 20 years ago. The night table I made in school is still there, too.

For four years, I have written this column from that mobile home. For four years, I have mowed my patch of lawn and my parents mowed theirs. All of this is about to change. I will write this column and others from my dad’s old office, looking east over the machine shed, workshop, and a half-section of soybeans.

We now own the farmstead. The yard is now our responsibility. It’s a large step for everyone.

It was four years of limbo. We were happy — very happy — but we had no idea what would happen next nor when it would happen.

For four years, my parents, my wife, and I pushed towards discerning what the opening stages of this succession plan could look like. One (me) gets used to pushing and being in limbo. One (me) forgets to think about what life will look like once all that pushing comes to an end.

The rewards, I’m hoping, are innumerable. The challenge, though — and it’s not a small one — is to replace the thoughts and questions that bounced around our heads for four years with new, long-distance goals. Change is hard.

I’ve become so used to being a green farmer that I’m not sure how to compose myself as a producer who knows a thing or two. We’ve become so used to living in a mobile home on the farmstead that to live in the main house with no one else around will seem quite foreign to us.

You push toward something for so long that a breakthrough is barely recognizable and is as terrifying as it is rewarding. Pushing becomes normal. It becomes comfortable.

Our life as farmers is starting to look very different, this much I know. My family home, my family yard, will be in our hands. It is this blend of excitement and nerves that is causing my world to spin, my world to seem uncertain in a good way, my world to seem blurred and full of disparate actions.

Our wheat yielded well. Our soybeans are ripening at a healthy pace and are poised to do well (knock on wood). And I will need to start picking up boxes for moving. These are facts. They help ground me.

Next time we talk, I’ll have harvested the soybeans I planted on 120 acres of recently-broken pastureland; I will have harvested the soybeans on the other 110 acres I rent; and I may have purchased 80 acres of farmland. Oh yeah, and we’ll be living in my childhood home.

It’s scary only because it’s very real. My wife and I could not be more excited and grateful. We don’t know what this change will bring, but we’re still full of the same giddy joy we had when we first moved back to the farm four years ago.

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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