From Where I Sit – All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Farming

For over 20 years I’ve studied at the School of the Land at a campus near Andrew. The program name was Farming 101. The tuition was high. The courses were self-paced and tough. Electives like marketing, business, bookkeeping, computer literacy, risk management, succession planning and more rounded out the offerings.

Entrance requirements are rigid, which may explain the vacancies in the program.

Mature students are welcome. Semesters tend to be repeated in this year round school with no breaks for backpacking through Europe. Extra curricular activities tend to involve more volunteering than partying. Instructors come in all shapes and sizes. Often they’re disguised as hard work, bad timing, dumb luck, or grace of God. Course materials cost a fortune. Scholarships are few and far between. An auctioneer is usually guest speaker at graduation.

Through it all, I’ve encountered mentors and masters, class clowns and deadbeats, dunces and geniuses. I’ve been awed by success, nearly leveled by defeat.

But through it all, all I really to know I learned from farming. (Apologies to Robert Fulghum). “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned while farming. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the corral and the field.”

So, here’s what I’ve learned, as simply as I can say it.

STEWARDSHIP: Take care of what God’s given you. It may be land or opportunity or health.

RESPECT: Good fences make good neighbors. Don’t trespass. Share the road. Don’t push machinery or people to their breaking point.

TIME MANAGEMENT: To succeed you’ve got to work harder for yourself than any other boss.

LAW OF COMPENSATION: You really do reap what you sow. You may get away with half-hearted effort–once or twice–but in the long term, it catches up.

VIGILANCE: The weeds will take your crop if you allow it. The coyotes will grab a calf if they can. The market will eat you alive if you stop paying attention.

SAFETY: Stay away from moving parts and keep the shields in place. Don’t over-do it.

REALITY: The work is never done*.

WORK ETHIC: See above*. Triflers won’t succeed because farming is hard, never-ending work requiring both brain and brawn.

RENEWAL: Take regular breaks to rest and rejuvenate because the work is never done. Don’t wait til that magical “retirement” comes. It may be too late.

PATIENCE: You can’t rush nature–ripening the crop or shortening the gestation period.

RESILIENCE: This year may be the ultimate test of our resolve, commitment, or contingency plan.

BALANCE: Seek each day to play a little, pray a little, just “be” a little.

GRATITUDE: Count your blessings. Smell the newly tilled soil, fresh mown hay, wild flowers.

WONDER: The only way to explain northern lights, the birth process, germination.

All I really need to know I learned from farming, from where I sit.

*Reprinted with permission

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