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Toban Dyck: Looking back on 2020

We’ve been left to our own devices

With all this time at home, there seems to be no limit to the things I can get into. This year, 2020, the year so many people want to get past, has been one characterized by exploration and curiosity. And that is a good thing.

Prodding forward when the path ahead is invisible or unclear is one of the most challenging things to do. I have done this many times, and likely you have, as well.

My wife and I have spent an inordinate amount of time this year thinking and talking about the future of our farm and our off-farm career paths. If the world was functioning like it was pre-COVID or pre-trade wars, I’m not sure we’d feel so challenged to re-evaluate these aspects of our lives.

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I am returning to university to further study policy development and analysis. I am considering becoming a pilot and I have taken steps to formally set up an advisory business to formalize some of the work I get asked to do outside of my day job with Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers.

My wife, Jamie, is similarly thinking of ways she can develop and enhance her career as an educator, a vocation she is passionate about and is quite exceptional at.

In our house, we have prioritized this process and we’ve taken seriously the creation of physical spaces where each of us can think clearly about our next steps. Our house has a nice home office, but we’re moving things around to create another one. As trivial and frivolous as it can seem to spend time and dollars on such things, if they aren’t taken seriously, whatever happens in them won’t get taken seriously, either.

I don’t want to find myself exiting the proverbial, platonic cave scrambling to pick up the pieces of a life put on a hold. I want to be invigorated before the fog of 2020 lifts, so that when it does, I can fully take advantage of it.

This is a tricky subject to write about and I find myself feeling bad about trying to paint what is a dismal year for many as something I am utilizing for adventures and self-exploration/betterment. Privilege is something I want to acknowledge and apologize for, but, linguistically, I feel it weakens my point to do so.

As a farmer during COVID, I have noticed a tendency in the industry to want to play along and cry wolf with everyone else. Things are bad and, yes, the economy will have to find a way to open up before long, but commodity prices are relatively strong and 2020 was, by and large, a banner year across much of Canada. The ag sector’s whining is now part of a larger chorus of complaints, which is a unique position for it. Usually, we’re bitter and alone.

The sense of exploration and curiosity that has so far been my 2020 motto has permeated more than just my off-farm pursuits.

When you’re not surrounded by other farmers at events, coffee shops, etc., you’re left to your own devices to make decisions on such things as cropping, tillage and whatever else you may subconsciously rely on the mob for guidance. It’s a unique challenge to make decisions and execute them in the vacuum of your home office.

This year, we tilled very little of our land, having had good experiences fertilizing and lightly cultivating in spring. This is a new look for our farm. And while new things usually take courage to execute and justify to the farmers down the road, in a pandemic setting where I am not seeing or talking to other growers, my decisions are expressly my own.

If the pandemic has given you extra time to think, take that time. Explore the possibilities. Test your thresholds as a person. See how far you can go.

I have only taken my discovery flight, so far, but I look forward to the process of getting my licence. Returning to university scares the heck out of me — it’s been a while — but I am excited about what new synapses going to school will re-engage. The advisory business? Who knows. It may be nothing. It may be everything. Stay positive, everyone!

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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