Toban Dyck: Finding the courage to tackle something new

What’s coming next, new crops? New goals?

Challenges define us. They change the parameters for what’s possible.

What’s next? It is a difficult question. I’m 39. If I am to take my cues from what others have done in their 40s, soon I will be purchasing a convertible. I write this with a tinge of sarcasm, but I wouldn’t mind a convertible. Realistically, though, I want a 1969 Ford Mustang, the kind of car Keanu Reeves drives in the movie John Wick. I digress.

I’m too young for retirement. But, I’m surrounded by people who are not. And, while the question of what’s next is often what people of retirement age are encouraged to ask themselves, it is something Jamie and I have been thinking about as well, only in a different capacity.

This is not me leaving the farm. I love farming, though, for someone on the outside looking in, they could feasibly ask when it is I have time to actually do this thing I proclaim to love so much. What’s next gets at something else.

Asking what’s next has become an interesting exercise in determining what exactly it is that Jamie and I want out of this life and this farm.

When I meet someone that, say, has a farm in Manitoba and Alberta, or Alberta and the Netherlands, I’m immediately two parts jealous and one part motivated to do the exact same thing. Copying isn’t the answer, but my sober second thought after leaving such conversation always leads to the question of why don’t more people do stuff like that. Why don’t we do stuff like that?

At 39, I haven’t fully decoded this world. I’m a few columns away from that. But, I’m happy to report that of all the things I’ve observed, a couple of them have actually stuck. One of them is this: you gotta dream and you gotta try things.

I write this because perhaps me doing so in such a public way will help instill this in my own mind. It’s hard to dream. It’s hard not to put parameters on our future. The pragmatist in me too often wins. But it’s not just practicality. It rarely is. It’s perfectly practical for the farmer to own land in two countries. It’s fear that keeps us from things. And, dang it, why is fear such a difficult thing to shed?

What’s next for me on the farm is a foray into crops I have yet to grow.

“I don’t know why more people don’t grow flax,” a farmer said to me to the other day. “It always does well for me and I always get a good price for it. I think people are still afraid to grow it because when they think of flax they think of rust and Triffid.”

I’m tempted to grow flax. I’m definitely going to grow edible beans. It astounds me that, for how science-based farming is, decisions on what to grow are largely anecdotal. A cropping decision can go from ridiculous to practical over one coffee-shop conversation.

“Fortune favours the brave is a cliché,” so I won’t use it. But it also doesn’t properly express my point, either. It’s not about fortune and it’s not about being brave. It’s about, first, confirming your love for farming. Then doing the mental gymnastics required to think, dream, contemplate what exactly you’d like your farm to look like. What kinds of crops do you want to grow?

I’m at that place on the agricultural learning curve where I’m becoming more and more aware of how much I don’t know. But, like I said earlier, I’m also starting to realize that our cropping and general farming decisions should be made.

If you once deemed farming a meaningful exercise and now don’t, I’d be willing to bet that dreaming a little will be reinvigorating.

It is not my intention to undermine those of you who are content with the way things are. What’s next may not be a question you’d like to ask of your business, but it may apply on a smaller scale: new hobbies, next trip, next book, next university degree.

I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve summoned the courage to tackle something new. Challenges define us. They change the parameters for what’s possible.

The soybeans are almost ready to harvest. It’s bizarre to even write this, but it’s time to start thinking about the 2020 growing season. I look forward to discussing what’s next for Burr Forest Acres with Jamie. Farming is a vocation where very little is predetermined. The sky’s the limit.

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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