What Growing Up On A Farm Taught Me About Leadership

Growing up on my family’s farm taught me something new almost every day and I didn’t even realize it. I just thought we were having fun! My name is Adam McKenery and I was raised on my family’s farm located in Hampshire County WV, just west of Winchester VA. To me it is the most beautiful place on earth no matter the season of the year. Reflecting back I realize that the way I was raised is unique and truly a gift that I will forever cherish.

My grandparents were born and raised on neighboring farms that became one once they were married. Together they had six children. Each of them married and built homes near one another on the farm where they raised their families. This allowed me to grow up with my cousins being more like brothers and sisters and to this day we are extremely close and are hopefully instilling this in our children. Each of the eight of us have taken different paths in life that do not involve the farm. However, we all return to the farm at least monthly and enjoy time together.

All of my childhood memories involve something about the farm. Jumping on hay bales, swinging from grapevines, playing in creeks and mud puddles are some of the fun ones that standout. But, even cleaning out a section of the barn, or an old pig pin for a “clubhouse” or working in the garden were fun when you had seven others to do it with. As we got older our interest changed, but we still supported one another, (and always tried to make it fun) and we always knew that our parents and grandparents supported us. They allowed us the opportunity to succeed and to fail. Little did I know then that is something I would apply when managing teams at work. I believe a key characteristic for leaders is to recognize each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Leaders need to allow each person to stretch themselves, allow them to climb up to the top, allow them to fall, be there to cheer them on during their successes and be available to support them and help them when they fall. I believe this is how we grow ad learn. I certainly did not recognize that those early childhood days were teaching me this valuable skill.

Growing up with my cousins also taught me about diversity, problem solving, how to get along with others and how to work as part of a team. We are all very different and provide diverse ways of thinking and accomplishing something. Seeing this at an early age allows me the patience and understanding that my way is not necessarily the only way. (I probably need a little more work on this one!) I also understand that we all contribute something unique to our family as I understand that members of a work team do. This typically has positive outcomes. 

Each of us were also actively involved in 4-H and our church. I believe this taught us the value of contributing back to your community. As a leader I think it is important to allow your team time to give back to something they value. Having a work/life balance is important to prevent burnout. Having a sense of purpose is motivational and allowing that to prosper is important.

I am looking forward to participating and learning from the VALOR program and my class fellows and know that I have a large support group behind me!

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