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You Won't Go It Alone
Some mentors offer perspective; others reinforce common sense. Yet all share experiences from the past to offer insights of real and lasting value.
By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Futures Magazine
It may not be obvious to you, but I grew up on a farm. Not in a literal sense like most farm kids, rather metaphorically – I spent the summers of my most formative mid-teen years milking cows, putting up hay, and chopping silage on a small dairy in southeast Wisconsin.
I can only imagine what you may be thinking, “That’s not really growing up on a farm.” But it was for this California kid. I got my first taste of farm life a few years earlier while on a family vacation to see our relatives in the Midwest. After that, Aunt Mildred and Uncle Milton were persuasive and unrelenting in their invitations to return. They wanted me to spend the summer and “learn to work.”
They didn’t pull any punches either. They talked of the heat, mid-summer thunderstorms, and never-ending work load.
So, return to the farm I did. And it was there that I learned not only to work, but also to love and appreciate a life style that only a small segment of our population will ever know. The place wasn’t much as dairies go, but it was the world to me. Those summers, I worked side-by-side with my Uncle Milton and Cousin Terry. Each hot work-filled day started and ended with milking chores. The to-do list only grew, and as late August became early fall, I realized the work didn’t end; only the seasons changed.
Unfortunately my uncle only knew hard work. He didn’t know about succession planning. And, it’s what he didn’t know, and therefore couldn’t do, that cost the family everything. From a farming heritage to an agribusiness future, is but a few crucial steps. Leaving a legacy is about cultivating multigenerational success. It’s done by preserving the farm, promoting it as a healthy business, and then passing it to a well-prepared next generation.
My Uncle Milton taught me a lot about farming. Along the way, he instilled the following 10 ideals I live by to this day:
1. Each farm is a unique blend of natural resources, microclimate, production history, and familial heritage.
2. Family values are taught with actions and emotions, not just with words.
3. Commit without reservation, be intentional in your work and absolute in your integrity.
4. You can’t change others, but you can learn to respect their strengths.
5. Your past doesn’t determine your future, but it does affect your opportunities.
6. Growing strengths and improving performance are more valuable than good luck.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others, rather complement their achievements and learn from their efforts.
8. The agrarian work ethic can, and should, be applied to every worthwhile endeavor.
9. Love grows in an atmosphere of respect, admiration, and appreciation.
10. Don’t ever be afraid. You can learn what you don’t understand, prepare for the unexpected, acknowledge your shortcomings, and not go where you’re not supposed to be…
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