I’ve told this story many times, and still get laughs out of it every time I do. One time, as I was having lunch with a relatively new associate, he asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a farmer. Now after he spit his food out and laughed insatiably for a few minutes, I explained to him what I meant. You see I have always thought of myself as blessed, actually in many different ways…first of all, I have seen the entire world almost on someone else’s dime (business), and this has allowed me to gain a perspective on the world most others can’t quite see or even grasp. I was diagnosed with a couple of auto-immune deficiency diseases early in life, so, I catch a lot of colds and don’t necessarily have the ability to fight the bugs off. Because of this, I believe in one thing most importantly…I am on earth to touch people and make a difference in their lives. These unfortunate circumstances are really fortunate, because they give me a different perspective on life and living. I have often sat down and asked myself why I continue to live while others with the same affliction die. The only rational explanation I can come up with is that the Lord must be looking to get more out of me. So I try to figure out what that means on a daily basis. How can I contribute and make a lasting contribution? So what does that have to do with farming, you may ask?
Webster says a farmer is one who cultivates land or crops or raises animals. What is a person who raises or cultivates people? I can’t tell you the amount of times I have reached out to a complete stranger and struck up a conversation, whether it is on a plane, train, or just blindly on social media. I like to see the shock on peoples’ faces when I do such things. It is comical sometimes. Now sometimes the recipient of my advances is shocked by my forwardness, but in most cases, they reach back out. Why, you have to ask yourself? Are they searching for the elusive golden ring of knowledge, are they looking for friendship, or are they simply looking for some little snippet of knowledge they feel they are lacking to make their lives more complete or fulfilled? I don’t know, I guess that depends on the recipient. A farmer does the same thing. A farmer plants seeds and provide sustenance for his family and many other families. A farmer also fertilizes, cultivates, and comes back to reap the harvest. I believe in patterning myself as a farmer. When it comes to relationships, I believe you first plant a seed and make the relationship fertile enough to grow. You come back to cultivate that growth, and when the time is right, the plant benefits, as well as the farmer. When there is benefit for both parties, it is time for harvest. Harvest time is success for everyone. It benefits all parties because bellies get filled, and both parties can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Both have reached a state of fulfillment, in a sense.
When it comes to building relationships, farming is the perfect activity. Relationships grow that way. When you have cultivated the seeds and come back to water the plant, and the plant produces, there is satisfaction for the farmer. The same is true in building relationships, when you have started the conversation and figured out how to make both parties satisfied. Now, because you really understand all of the needs, you can fill the role of the farmer. The farmer’s goal is to produce the largest, best-tasting, healthiest fruit or vegetable possible. It is just like entering the county fair as proud as can be, because of the farmer’s labor. It’s the same with the relationship farmer as well.
Now the first question would be, exactly how do you do this? I say you always make it about the other person, never about you. Find a common platform on which to engage. Find some common theme to start the conversation. It can be family, cars, careers, whatever—it just has to be a common interest between the two of you. Many times when you hit that common thread people will really open up—in fact, sometimes you find out more than you really wanted to know, so be careful and listen.
Remembering key details is an easy way of reestablishing relationships, and I have made a habit of trying to remember something about everyone. This especially works well with friends from other countries, as most people do not consider Americans too sincere. I have always tried to immerse myself in another culture whenever I am in a foreign land. Indians are a unique group. I have great friendships with my Indian friends because I have never refused to go to temple with them; I have always tried to understand their culture. One time, while I was in Delhi for a plant opening, we had a ceremony to bless the new manufacturing equipment that had been recently installed in our plant, and they had a priest come into do the blessing. They tied little red strings around my wrists, and I kept mine on until they fell off. A few months later, my friend from India was visiting and he asked me why I kept the bracelet on? I told him that it reminded me of my friends in India. He was speechless. And that is exactly why I kept it on, even though my boss cut his off on the plane home. You see, I think it is an honor to take some small bit of another’s culture and immerse it with ours, as it broadens the respect we have for one another. It certainly does make the world a smaller place. Now, isn’t that farming?
Farmers are the salt of the earth, and such an integral part to our viability and success. Farmers understand conservation and the thought behind replenishing assets. If the land is not taken care of for future generations, there will be no future. So a farmer is one to be admired and someone we need to look up to because of his stature and character; he is always doing what is right for the future, because as we say, if we don’t, we will have no future. Don’t you want to be a farmer?
I am proud to call myself a farmer, although not in the sense you might expect.