Saturday, July 26, 2014

Willing to be Weird...No Fear, Only Wonder

I have talked about being weird in our previous posts. A worldview of principled non-conformity is essential to advancing the leading edge of any field.

Agriculture is replete with farmers that conform to the status quo. They never achieve any more than their farmer buddies that drink coffee at the "round table" in the town cafe every morning. There is nothing wrong about that, except you will not stand out, you will never leave the boundaries of the tribe, you will not be weird!

Here are 10 principles for being weird, whether you are a farmer or not.

  1. Take the Road Less Traveled. If everyone is doing it, you aren't on the path to being weird. If everyone is plowing, you want to be rotovating, if everyone is rotovating you want to be double digging. Ideally we would figure out how to not have to till at all. I think the grass fed beef guys are getting close. When my kids say every one is doing it, I remind them they want to be weird. 
  2. Read everything you can get your hands on and then read some more. Read broad and deep. Reading can jump start your agricultural endeavors by decades. 
  3. Serendipity with your eyes wide open. There isn't time in one lifetime to learn everything by trial and error. But when the unexpected happens. Be ready to take note. 
  4. Always ask why? Sometimes I take a mental note of something weird that happened and I don't find out for years the reason. The information is out there if I am patient and persistent. 
  5. Look where everyone else isn't looking. Some of the best ideas for farming are found outside the traditional farming community. Things like leadership. Customer service. Value adding products. Manufacturing to learn about efficiency. Social media. Computer technologies.
  6. Learn from our grand parents. We hear technology is moving at a blinding pace and it is. But in agriculture, we have forgotten more in the last 100 years than we have learned. I am coming to believe that is true in areas like food preparation and preservation as well. Our teenagers know more about cooking, canning and cilantro than the average 30 year old husband or wife. These skills are in great demand in the "farmers market place".
  7. Learn from the ancients. In Ecclesiastes Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. History can teach us much, but we can even looked beyond written history to the sound and sustainable practices of the ancients peoples. I'm not talking about some mystical mumbo jumbo, but looking at how they built, no literally engineered, soils under difficult circumstances to build empires using soil biology and naturally selected plant genetics. We have serious problems with the sustainability of modern agricultural practices, but there are powerful answers and very achievable solutions if we know where to look for them.
  8. Look!!! Look for trends. Look for the unusual. Look for the difficult. Leave the path. Really see things around you. (Know that listen and look are twin sisters.)
  9. Find the hidden value. When agriculture is going left, you go right. When everyone else is getting big, become small (or at least think small).
  10. Try something different every season. Maybe several things. 

Our mantra is...No fear, only wonder.

At the heart of being weird is farming organically. But is wasn't always so. My grandfather farmed organically and it was normal in his time. Because there wasn't any other way.

Remember there is nothing new under the sun.

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