An author and writing teacher recent posted a short online blog entry called, “Four Things You Need to Become a Writer.” It was a short, four-paragraph comment and I zipped through it and started to close the browser window.
Then I was struck by the similarities to farming and I hit the “print” button instead.
Determination. In her first comment, you could replace the word “writer” with “farmer” and hit the nail on the head:
“Stubbornness. To be mule-like in your stubbornness; not absorbing one logical thing your family or friends tell you about the impossibility of becoming a writer (no way to make a living, etc.).”
You know, a commitment to something, to yourself, can sometimes be seen as stubbornness. To farm, or to travel any career path that is not ‘easy,’ takes that commitment. That determination. That persistence. Otherwise, you’ll be combing the want ads in six months.
No, not everyone can write. And not everyone can farm. But if you believe you have the ability, you can’t listen to those who would shoot you down, no matter how well-meaning they are.
Author Stephen King wrote his first novel while he was working as a full-time teacher and John Grisham was working 60- to 70-hour weeks as a small town lawyer when he started writing his first book during courtroom recesses. And I’m sure both heard plenty of naysayers: “Are you nuts? What do you mean you’re going to quit your law practice and become a writer!”
It takes stubbornness.
Addiction. The original writer’s list also included “A passion for books and language to the point of addiction.”
You’ve met them, the addicted farmers. They really are passionate for agriculture, for learning new things, for talking to other farmers, for reading about farming. They’re addicted to numbers, to sire books, to growing things.
It’s wonderful to be around them because their enthusiasm for farming is contagious and they encourage others around them. Think of Ohio’s own Bob Evans, (yes, he of the sausage fame) and his passion for livestock grazing.
The passionate also challenge the status quo, and ask other farmers to question their own “because we’ve always done it this way” mentality.
Conviction. And the fourth trait on the writer’s list with an ag connection (the third pertained only to writing) is “The courage to risk making a total fool of yourself …”
Who was the first person to use a tractor instead of those trusty draft horses? Who was the first person to say “I’m not planting that thorny multiflora rose as a living fence”? Who was the first to forego a perfectly groomed, plowed field before planting to try no-till? Who sold the cows and banked on green peppers instead?
Farmers with the courage to risk making a total fool of themselves.
Farmers who were passionate.
Farmers who were stubborn.
Farmers who are going to make it, no matter what.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)