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Toban Dyck: Joy comes at unexpected times

Find what brings you joy in farming, and take time to focus on those things

I was writing and thinking when I looked up, saw a line of grain bins and recalled that, 
yes, right, I live on the farm. I am a farmer.

I was writing. I was deep in my own thoughts, wrestling, jostling, mucking around in the recesses of my mind. It’s important to dredge once in a while. Those things that reside in the depths tend to surface unannounced if not properly addressed.

Anyway, I was in this space — a space I love to wallow in — when I looked up, saw a line of grain bins and recalled that, yes, right, I live on the farm. I am a farmer.

You’ve likely had an experience similar to this, if you did other things before you began farming. It’ll happen to me again. I imagine I’ll find myself in this place many more times. I don’t mind. You shouldn’t, either.

Life is short and it’s unpredictable. I was made aware of this the other day for reasons too sensitive and fresh for this column.

I’m not going to tell you to seize the day, because that’s too vague. Figure out what brings you joy and focus on those things. Farming is about hard work, tough decisions and learning to stomach stress and risk. It brought you joy once, if it doesn’t now. Strive to remember that time, getting back inside the head of that younger version of yourself who was inspired and eager and driven by curiosity.

I’m only seven years into this farming life, but looking up from my laptop to our bins brought me back to that place. I remember those first Grainews columns. I’d write about feeling a sense of euphoria on the farm; how Jamie and I would sit on our deck in summer, look at each other and laugh at how amazing life on the farm was.

Every day, I would learn something I didn’t know before about running a farm and every day I was excited for the next lesson.

This hasn’t changed. I’m still thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to live in the country and have a chance at running a farm.

From what I have been able to witness over the last few years, farmers are not prone to talk to each other about what brings them joy. I’m not asking that you start doing that now.

Imagine waking up to find out your good friend was sent to hospital in life-threatening condition. You’d presumably feel sad, worried and perhaps anxious about your current health. You wouldn’t feel well.

Now, imagine waking up to news that you’ve won the lottery and are now financially set for life. I’m guessing this would fill you with energy and optimism. You would feel well.

This exercise is not mine. Psychologists use a version of this to demonstrate how the mind has the power to affect your physical body. Your thoughts are important to your physical health.

I didn’t willfully stray from what brings me joy. I still find joy in the things I do. But taking the time to evaluate and re-evaluate where we currently find ourselves is, I believe, a meaningful exercise as both a person in this world and as a farmer.

After some time on the farm, I’m still thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to live in the country and have a chance at running a farm. photo: Toban Dyck

When it came back to me that I was, indeed, a farmer, I asked myself what about it I find meaningful? It’s not an easy question to answer, and if it comes quickly, I’d say it’s rehearsed and not genuine enough to qualify.

We put out a magazine at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers. It takes up a chunk of my time. Before most issues, we meet and discuss topics and direction. And every time we do, we ask the question, “Do we still see value in publishing Pulse Beat?”

This caught me off-guard the first time I heard it. It was an editorial meeting. We were there to discuss articles; not whether or not publishing a magazine was still something we should do.

I’ve come around on this. Ensuring our motivating reasons are solid guarantees that what comes next is tethered to something we can support.

I enjoyed languishing in thought over what initially motivated us to return to the farm and what about it we find meaningful. It ties the day-to-day of running an operation to something more foundational than profits.

It was just a row of bins, utilitarian and insignificant, save for what they triggered. The mind is a powerful organ. Take some time to dredge.

About the author


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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