Cold March rain was falling in Rockbridge County on the day we visited Ingleside Trout Farm. We made our way through the tour; we walked into the hatchery to see the new fry and then back over the bridge to see the larger fingerlings. The owner, Jennifer, tossed out cups of pellets to feed the adolescent fish and we watched as they moved through the water in what could best be described as organized chaos – a scurry of movement in the same direction. As we watched, Jennifer mentioned that the fish reminded her of the Van Gosh painting, Starry Night. She motioned her hand over the water in the same way the sky was painted in stippled swirls over the blue canvas.
In my time working with FFA members, I have had the chance to hear the words of the FFA Creed recited many times in practice and in competition. E.M. Tiffany created verse that transcended spans of time, global change and generations of agriculturists. These words, adopted by the organization in 1930, encompass what it means to be an FFA member and a member of the greater agricultural community. In the Creed Speaking contest, it is important that the member be able to recite the creed from memory, but also that they can interpret the words and apply them to their own lives and to the agriculture industry. One phrase goes like this –
“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”
We often characterize these “joys and discomforts” as monumental events; making the last payment on the farm or losing a whole season’s crop from a single hail storm. While these life shifting times are worth noting, working in agriculture or any other worthwhile pursuit, will come with daily, even hourly, highs and lows. Successful farmers seek gratitude in the face of adversity.
Gratitude is a cornerstone to innovation, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, dedication, persistence and growth. We show up with our best for things we are grateful for. During our latest seminar, we visited Harmony Harvest, a fresh cut flower farm. The owner, Jessica, spoke with such passion about her employees that I was nearly brought to tears. She spoke about the struggles of running a multi-generational business and the unique joys of working with her mom and sister every day. She spoke with excitement about the discovery of the “perfect sized cardboard box” that would be used to ship mail-order DIY flower arrangement kits. She expressed her gratitude for the role she plays in communicating love and kindness through flowers and personal notes.
It is easy to get too stressed out, mad and resentful over circumstances within and outside of our control. At times, the challenges that come with each day seem like something we all just have to muddle through. However, if we are able to keep gratitude in focus, the “why” becomes more important than the “what and how”. The FFA Creed says agriculturists work “…in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.” These words ring true in 2021, just as they did in 1930. Folks in agriculture often have the deck stacked against them. Time, money, weather and acts of God, family, societal pressure and (somewhat ironically) that same society’s demand for product make working in agriculture a physically, mentally and emotionally taxing profession.
That’s why I think it’s so important to stop and recognize the little special things. What I kept noticing as we traveled around to folks in the valley is that you could see that little glimmer, the short few seconds of pause, and the everyday magic that makes mundane tasks fun and cloudy days a little brighter. It was special to witness these little moments from each of our tour stops – when a farmer gives themself permission to look back quickly, feel pride in their work and smile. It’s moments like this when we realize that a cold, rainy day can still be enjoyed working outside — that’s the good stuff!! Moments like this keep your heart happy. They help us to keep the “why” in focus.