It’s that point of the summer when the crops are really getting their legs.
They’re growing, stretching and filling and now success or failure is largely between themselves and Mother Nature.
As a farmer, you’ve done what you can to set them up for success, and that’s no doubt made for some hard work, long hours and personal sacrifices.
Seeding and spraying wait for no man or woman and every successful farmer knows that.
Now might be the time to consider something every truly successful person knows though — and in this case we’re not using the term “successful” in strictly the economic sense.
The truth is there are a lot of ways to judge success, and some of the most important ways have nothing to do with dollars and cents.
There’s success in a strong relationship with a young child or aging parent, a success that will pay dividends well into the future. There’s success in developing interests outside the farm and agriculture industry itself, interests that can sustain one in retirement. There’s success in realizing that, as important as one’s career is, it’s not necessarily always going to be the only thing that defines you.
Farm families make a lot of sacrifices to keep farms running smoothly, and we’re just entering the window when, in the heart of our all-too-brief summer, they can take a little bit back for themselves.
The work is as caught up as it’s going to get and the world beckons. Go fishing. Take a road trip. Jump into the truck and visit a local fair or a farm show if you must take a letter carrier’s holiday.
Last summer I had the opportunity to visit the Ag in Motion show near Saskatoon, organized by our parent company. One of the things that struck me at the time was just how many families had chosen to make a day of it.
It was nice to see so many farm youth there with their parents, all of them interested and knowledgeable about farming. You could hear them discussing the merits of various tractors and seeding systems as they wandered the laneways of the show. Gathering in the shade of the shelterbelts they enjoyed picnic lunches, cold drinks and the company of each other.
I left that event convinced more than ever that the ‘culture’ part of agriculture remains intact. This remains a business largely centred around families, with their own way of doing things, and their own way of viewing and interacting with the world.
But that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement — or at least some realities to bear in mind.
One reality is that farm families tend to work long and hard, and they’re not always the best at setting aside time for themselves.
Another is that it can be tough to truly relax and enjoy the company of each other when you’re thinking about that unfinished job that’s staring you in the face, even if it’s not a critical one.
Yet another is that human lives are fleeting and short. The best description I’ve ever heard is that the days can be long, but the years are short. You look away once, and the babe in arms has become an eight-year-old. Glance away again and they’re graduating from high school.
Several years ago I met a farmer from the Peace River country who I was interviewing for a feature article on the area.
He’d come back to the farmyard for a couple of hours to feed and check the cows and have a conversation with me. The rest of his family was down at the provincial park a few miles down the road camping. He made no bones about why they were doing this.
Running the farm was stressful, and the family had struggled financially while trying to get it up and running. Despite that fact, he and his wife were determined their kids would have a childhood that included some of the small pleasures of life. In this case, it was roasting hotdogs around a campfire and playing in the water. Long after the farm had succeeded or failed, he explained, the family would remain.
He also acknowledged that his kids may or may not follow in their parents’ footsteps and, statistically at least, it was very likely that most, if not all of his kids would leave the farm. Once that happened, he knew spending time with them would be more difficult and he and his wife were determined not to miss the opportunity to forge a lasting bond.
What you do with your brief summer window isn’t important. Everyone will have their own preference. But what is important is to acknowledge it and not miss the opportunity.
Go to a show. Go fishing. Go to the city to sponge off the in-laws. Go camping or take a road trip somewhere. Seize the opportunity to make some memories together.
Just like any other family, yours also deserves the opportunity to relax and enjoy a Manitoba summer together.
Take a break to cultivate that aspect of your life.