In March of 2016, I said yes to something I knew very little about, something that would take me off the farm. I was reticent at first. I wanted to remain committed to the farm, and I did not want my working away from the yard leave more work for others.
I’ve been at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers for a year now, and I haven’t looked back.
So, here’s a light-hearted toast to you, Grainews readers, and the ag industry, in general. And here’s to being less averse to risk and saying yes when it hurts to do so. Ask my wife, Jamie. When I asked her if we should move back to the farm in 2012, her first response was, “hell no.” But, in May of 2012 that changed to yes, and in August we moved.
It was CropConnect time. I was staying at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg, the hotel hosting the conference. I was attending for work, though I probably would have attended as a farmer. I had two columns to write during the days I was there: one for Grainews (this one) and one for the Financial Post.
This wasn’t going to be a problem. Writing is what evenings are for. Wrong. Evenings, it turns out, are for something else, entirely.
Because I said yes I met a plant breeder who blew my mind, and 999 other, amazing people. Because I said yes, I’ve had a second, maybe third-row seat to the complex and interesting mechanism that is agriculture in Canada. And, because I said yes, I went go-karting with a bunch of people from Manitoba Corn Growers, Manitoba Canola Growers and Alberta Canola Growers. I lost, miserably.
I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t walk 10 feet in that hotel without running into someone I now know or at least recognize. Writing did not happen those evenings. This column was submitted a week late.
Working in the agriculture industry, as a columnist and as a communicator, has been an invaluable experience. I have never felt more at-home in an industry than I do in agriculture.
I’m a fatalist, so I often find myself evaluating moments as though they’ll be my last. “That was a great experience. If I lose the farm and my job today, I’ll always have that experience. No one can take that away from me.” It seems dark, and it is, but it’s not as bad as you think.
When I started this column in 2012, readers were interested in what I was doing. I can say this because they would email me, saying things like, “congratulations, “love your column,” “if you ever have any questions, let me know.”
I’ve written for a few publications in my career, but you guys, Grainews readers, are the most engaged. My wife, Jamie, would agree. I’ve received valuable information from some of you. One reader even took the time to compile his ag degree notes for me to draw from. I still have that file. It’s useful. But it’s also nostalgic. And last winter, when I missed a string of Grainews columns, a concerned reader took the time to contact me to make sure I was okay.
All of these things have enriched my experience on the farm. I have learned a lot since 2012, and farming has changed along the way.
What’s next? That is the question, the fear, and the fun. I had no idea what would happen next when I said yes last March, when Jamie said yes in 2012, and all the little yeses in between. And I have no idea what will happen five years from now.
Our farm will no doubt look different in 2022. Heck, so will I. (I was stopped by a reader the other day who told me that I looked nothing like my column picture.) Perhaps we’ll have some tile-drained acres by then. Perhaps we’ll have more land. Perhaps not.
The point is this: between now and some time in the future, I will have said yes to a few more things. You will have, too. Mistake or not, all of those things will have changed you. All of those things will have been experiences no one can take from you.
It’s these things, these experiences, that add to what it means to be a person in this world. And while this is an ag column, it’s also a column about me, a person who farms.
I can be quite critical, so touting “yes” as the thing to say without throwing in at least one caveat seems like a disservice to all those philosophy courses I took years ago. It’s good to know your limits. I have said yes to a lot of things, and when all those things have deadlines on the same day, life gets a little frenzied.
Life is great. Use your head. Say yes to things. And have a great growing season.