This August, Jamie and I will have been on this farm for nine years. This is registering with me as a significant amount of time. Also, in March of this year, I will celebrate my five-year anniversary at Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers. I say celebrate, but, if any of my coworkers are reading this, I am not expecting a party — not a big one, anyway.
I have never before been at the same job for five years, never mind nine. Crisis is a strong word, and to me it implies a significant challenge or some level of chaos. What’s happening is neither of these things.
I am not in crisis, but I am in an unfamiliar state. At 41, the notion of limitations and ageing out of some possibilities has come up, but, despite my coming to terms with the fact that I’m likely too old to become a professional snowboarder, I still believe that the fatalistic talk I start hearing from others in and around middle age is not based in reality.
As an insufferably introspective person, I can easily think myself into corners. This is not a bad thing for me. It’s normal behaviour for me. I try to think about life as limitless and try my best to motivate others to view their lives and its possibilities that way, too.
This is Grainews. Many of us are farmers and we don’t think of our vocations as something we can change too easily. This is something that has been on my mind a lot over the past few years.
There is a certain set of characteristics associated with farming. For many, farming is about a strong, grounded sense of home; inextricable ties to community; certain values; hard, physical labour; and the list goes to include values, politics and a whole spectrum of other things.
What if, though — and I’m going to be bold here — these attributes were properly put into context and we started treating farming less like something that is subservient to how it has historically been done and more like something that can and should take advantage of technology, lead public discourse and imaginatively explore the opportunities that accompany the seemingly infinite ways in which we are connected to the world around us and the information therein?
Pandemic aside, what is stopping me from buying land elsewhere and setting up another farm site? What is stopping me/you from … you name it?
Jamie and I often talk about starting a bookstore on our farm. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I worked at the independent bookseller McNally Robinson in Winnipeg during my university days. I was the purchaser for the store’s Ideas section, and I got to know a lot of the sellers who’d come through with their catalogues.
We also think about restoring the original farmhouse. It’s sitting on cribbing and has had a metal roof on it for quite some time. It would still need a bit of elbow grease before it would pass inspection, but we think it could be a neat space to both house the farm’s history as well as be a bed and breakfast or artist’s retreat.
These initiatives don’t align with a lot of what I see in the farming community, but there’s absolutely no reason this is the case.
On the public facing side, the more farmers can resist and challenge the moulds we allow ourselves to be cast into, the more we’ll be seen as promoting our vocation instead of defending it.
I really enjoy farming and the lifestyle, and dreaming of the potential that this farm could realize is something I want to continue doing, even at 41. This goes for my career off the farm, as well. What’s next for me? What’s next for you? You may or may not be older than I am, but I dare say you’re never too old to ask yourself this question.
As long as you and I have our faculties about us, let’s commit to scratching our itches (within the bounds of reason and law), exploring opportunities and operating our farms on the understanding that change is a fantastic thing that is worth embracing.