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Life Lessons From A Farmer – Sid Dubbert

It seems to be the exception to the rule when someone has such a passion for their career that they simply cannot imagine life apart from it. These rare people must be the best in their field – unable to separate themselves from their work, idle time is spent solving problems in their area of expertise, they are constantly pursuing greater knowledge, and their speech can’t help but spill over with their enthusiasm. I’m in an Intro to Teaching class this block (half a semester), and the most important thing to consider about teaching according to our professor, especially if secondary education is your goal, is passion for your subject matter. As in, even if you don’t become a teacher, you would spend a great deal of your time working with and learning about your subject (math, science, history…). He meant it as a warning – don’t settle for teaching because you just kinda want to and haven’t considered other options. I took it as encouragement. As a double ag major, farmer’s daughter, FFA member, etc. I can’t imagine my life apart from agriculture.

Today though, I’d like to tell you an inspiring story about a man named Sidney. He grew up on a farm not far from my hometown, where he plowed fields with mules, among other farm tasks, until he left for a tour of duty in the Air Force. Sidney meant to make the service his career, but unfortunate circumstances brought him home to another type of duty entirely. In the 1960’s, he found himself back on the family farm, following the same old routine, and before long became the farm’s primary caretaker. He loved the farm work even more this time around, and he lived happily ever after. Right?

Far from it. Sidney did – and still does – love the farm, and the life it provides. But some 30 years down the road, his story took a hard left turn.

Problem-solving is part of everyday farm life, maybe more so than many other careers. When the cows are loose in the front yard, the fence rows are falling down, and the tractor met some power lines head-on… Usually you’re the only one around who can fix the problem, and that’s exactly what you do.

It was definitely one of those days for Sid. The tractor wouldn’t start – dead battery. Easy fix, go get the truck and jumpstart it. Sid got everything hooked up, and disaster struck. As soon as he touched the starter, the John Deere 4440 jumped into gear – backing up over Sidney with its full weight, about 18000 pounds of metal and water with a corn planter behind it. After over an hour of lying there unable to move, a man hauling rock nearby came upon the accident and went for help. A broken pelvis and spinal cord damage meant that Sidney, with little control of his lower limbs, spent 6 months in the hospital before rehab therapy even began, with little hope of recovering to the point of walking again.

The next 6 months of his year’s hospital stay consisted of Sidney’s battle to walk again. With setbacks minor and major, he persisted with a positive attitude through it all.

Meanwhile at the farm, area farmers pitched in to help get Sid’s crops in and the community poured out its characteristic love and support during the struggles of one of its own.

Sid has been living at home since 2008. It hasn’t been easy, and there is a walker and a wheelchair that have taken up permanent residence in his house.

Are you ready for my favorite part?

November 6th, 2009. It’s harvest season, and the corn is ready to be picked. Sid’s son Steve is out on the combine hard at work.

Sid’s family gathers around him, helping him get out to where Steve is working. Steve asks Sid to do something he thought he may never get to do again – does he want to help harvest corn?

Now, picture that big green combine. I’m sure you can imagine a few obstacles that might get in the way of a man with a walker. The ladder, for instance.

This is where problem-solving on a farm shines brightest – Steve and Sid’s grandson Randy had this one all figured out. A backhoe awaited him, to lift Sidney (as Randy held him steady) to the cab door. Sid admits that it took him a minute to figure out the controls – it had been 15 years since he sat behind the wheel of a combine. But the joy in his heart spilled over onto his face, and he wasn’t through combining for another 5 hours once he got started, harvesting 25 acres of corn. His wife Emma Rose and daughter Juanita took turns riding in the passenger seat, delighting in that smile they knew was so well deserved.

Sid said, “God still has something he needs me to do and I plan on doing it.”

Check out the photo album – the story is told so well through pictures that I’ll leave you with them.

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Farm Out Loud!

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Farming – Hypothetically, Literally, and Spiritually

farming- hypothetically, literally, and spiritually

I got back to Springfield this evening after a week at home in central Missouri for Spring Break. The day I drove home, I realized that practically overnight (which could mean anything from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks for this tunnel-visioned college kid) everything had turned green. I mean, our neighbor mowed our small lawn twice in the span of a little over a week.

It’s officially spring, which means that my house is regularly haunted by a presence who sleeps in a bed in our house, but rarely if ever darkens our doorstep in daylight hours. He lives on Mountain Dew and honey buns, and spends most of his days taking care of baby plants. My dad spent this past week (until it started raining incessantly) driving his new toy – a huge sprayer. It looks like a giant bug-slash-fourwheeler that runs across fields (wheat this week) using its long arms to spritz a mixture of water and chemicals to protect the plants from bugs, fungus, weeds, etc. Only one thing can be applied at a time, so these plants will get sprayed several more times this season to keep them healthy.

In other news this past week, my small Baptist church at home led a revival with a guest preacher. I really enjoyed the services, and Icouldn’t resist sharing one of the stories Brother David told one evening when he shared with us his passion for missions.

Prayer is the backbone of missions. If you’re not called to go far away, and you’re not called to go close to home right now, you’re called to pray. Because here’s the thing – farmers don’t just drive their combines into a random field and hope there will be something to harvest there. They know better. They know that they have to cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, water them, keep the weeds and bugs out, and check on them regularly to make sure they mature – they also have to make sure their tractor, sprayer, and combine are in good working order.

God tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Yet He called all of us in the great commission to go therefore and make disciples. But just like a farmer, we are equipped for the call. Until we receive a call, we need to keep our equipment in working order. Is your pray-er rusty? Are your blades dull? It’s God’s parts store, the body of believers, that can help us with those things.

When God gives us a mission, He doesn’t waste words – have you noticed that? We’re supposed to listen the first time. When you hear it, jump to action – farm out loud, pray out loud, live out loud!

Farm Out Loud!

Agriculture Education and the Department of Labor – an epic battle?

I recently took a poll of my public speaking class to get a feel for what my audience would know about my upcoming persuasive speech topic. Out of 18 students polled, all from the Honors College at MSU, only 2 had heard of the proposed changes to child labor regulations that could severely limit family farms and educational opportunities for agriculture students.

 

 

Today, my Agriculture Leaders class heard from the Missouri Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director Garrett Hawkins, a graduate of Missouri State. During his visit, Garrett answered some of our questions about the changes and Farm Bureau’s stance and actions regarding the measure. He shared with us that Farm Bureau, like every agriculture entity he has heard from, is strongly opposed to the changes as they are currently written. While no one would argue that safety wouldn’t come first when it comes to high school students working with animals, farm equipment, and so on, the changes would take away valuable education tools for teaching safety.

In case you’re still wondering what changes have been made, I strongly suggest researching this topic so that you can make your own call. However, here’s a quick overview. Before occupying her current position, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis backed an initiative in California that called for strict regulations for the children of migrant workers who worked with their parents in the fields. This, of course, crossed not only labor issues, but also differences in culture – and did not pass. When she became labor secretary in 2009, she continued to fight the same fight on a grander scale.

The changes are a combination of the issues Solis wanted addressed, as well as a number of sweeping rules and changes that would apply to all US teens – including removal of student learner exemptions, as well as the ban of certain kinds of work for students age 13-16, which includes work with animals, in hog & poultry barns, and machinery (defined as anything powered by an engine, meaning mowing the lawn is out), unless they were volunteering or working directly for a parent or guardian whose operation had not been incorporated.

I say all that to say this: the proposed changes are a major deal. If you caught what I did in that list, you’d notice that the Department of Labor is trying to kill the traditional FFA SAE Project, as well as other activities for students in FFA and 4-H programs. The changes also threaten multi-generational farms where children and grandchildren learn safety and agriculture through work. Doing away with these opportunities for children to learn safety in a supervised environment is not protecting children – it’s exposing them to undue risk of harm.

Right now, these changes are being proposed yet again (they’ve been proposed before, causing passionate backlash from the agriculture community). The goal as I understand it is to push the changes into law by the end of the summer. Why? If our current president is not re-elected this November, the new president will have the right to go back through all laws passed during a certain time period before the office changed hands. The people (and activist groups) backing the labor law changes want the proposed changes signed into law before the window for review opens.

This means the agriculture community has a lot of work to do. Maybe you can help me spread the news about the changes. Maybe you’ll see fit to call or write your congressman and let them know what these changes really mean, and why they should oppose them.

Farm Out Loud!

Passion

 I wrote in an earlier post about how important passion is to me when it comes to careers. I think it makes the difference between a life of joy and one of regret. It’s more than that, though. I love this quote (above) because it makes so much sense. The biggest determinant of a person (or business, or industry)’s  success is their drive and commitment to their cause. I know I would rather do business with someone who is excited about what they’re doing and excited to allow me to be a part of it than with someone who is just doing their job. To me, that’s the difference between a job and a career. If you’re doing what you love because you love it, it’s a career. If you’re doing something, in order to get something that will allow you to do what you love… that’s a job.

I have a friend who makes amazing jewelry. She takes unique silverware patterns that she finds at antique stores and yard sales, and remakes them into something truly special. Spoons, forks, and butter knives become rings, bracelets, and necklaces. The most exciting part for customers is bringing in their own inherited silver sets, if they’re willing to part with their intended use. She’s had whole sets of family Christmas presents made from just a few pieces of great-grandma’s first silver pattern. The most exciting thing for my friend is taking on new projects. Her newest idea? Antique buttons. I can’t wait to see what she does with them.

Time for a shameless plug before I go on. My friend’s company is called The SilverSmiths, and it’s based in central Missouri. 

            

The SilverSmiths are just one example of a business, and a person, with a passion for what they do. Deb, the founder, is so excited about her creations that it’s contagious. It’s obvious that this project is more than just a job – it’s a fun and rewarding career. Her workshop is full of inspiration and her friends are very willing advertisements. I  have several pieces, and I love knowing that I’m one of a few who know where to get something so unique. I’m going to relish that idea, because I know it won’t last long. Her secret’s out!

Now, to bring this idea full circle, let’s consider this idea in the context of agriculture. There are honestly very few people who work in the agriculture industry who are not passionate about the work they do. And, let’s be honest: they aren’t in it for the money. So, here we are with a bunch of farmers, ranchers, marketers, communicators, service providers, engineers, scientists, (and the list continues) with a passion for their careers. How can you share your passion? If you happen to be a row crop farmer like my dad, then you spend a lot of your time alone, in a quite literal field. You can imagine a day like that to be as exciting or a boring as you want. Either way, nobody knows about it.

I’ve been reading a good book (do you believe that it’s a textbook? my nerd is showing, sorry about that) by David Meerman Scott called The New Rules of Marketing & PR. A lot of my seemingly original ideas probably originate from this book, and I highly recommend it. Or you can go for the free versions he posts on his blog and website. (oops, that was another plug, and I didn’t even warn you that time…. oh well, it’s worth it, I promise)

Back to your day in the field.

What if, after a particularly interesting day in the field, you decided to tell the world? Where would you turn first? Probably the same place your customers would: Facebook, Twitter, a website, maybe a blog. Now, you share your story in your own words, be they printed, spoken, or photographed. You now have something out there that people will find when they’re wondering about you. When your loyal customers wonder what you’ve been up to after you’ve missed a couple of days in the coffee shop, there you are. And most interestingly, when someone wonders about where their food comes from and want to see a face or a name behind it, they can find you!

Of course, there is a variety of kind of technical things that can go on behind the scenes to make sure you come up in Google where you want to be found. But the truth is, the things I’m suggesting here are really user friendly ways to get your story out there. The sites will even walk you through the steps. So what are you waiting for?

Farm Out Loud!