I feel fortunate in my work to have a front row seat to lots of different kinds of agriculture. As I’ve changed positions through my career, I’ve had a chance to deeply learn different pieces of the business. Agriculture is deep and wide. There’s so much to know that you can’t possibly know it all. Twenty-nine years ago, when I first became a farm broadcaster, I remember being overwhelmed with all there is to learn about Midwest agriculture. Often, I turned to my dad with my stupid questions.
The learning has never stopped.
Today I was working on writing a video for one of my clients, an ag equipment company. I was far into the detail of this machine that’s designed to help a producer farm more acres and plant them all in a smaller window of time. Big, big, big. Just then, I received a Facebook notification from a farmer that I met through a non-profit that is my other client. This farmer is from Nigeria and was sending me a picture and a video of his farm.
He appeared in the first picture. He told me via instant messaging that he was preparing his field for planting in that picture. He told me that he put one seed in each hole and spaced them 75 cm by 25 cm.
From the other side of the world, six time zones forward, we were having instant conversation. He was sharing cell phone video with me, but showing me an agricultural technology to plant his crop that couldn’t possibly get further on the spectrum from the seeder I was writing about.
The video he shared was of his tasseled maize. I turned on the sound and heard his goats. He loves his goats. They graze on his land. He breeds them and sells the young ones. I mentioned that in the U.S. I have seen this crazy trend of goat yoga. I sent a video link, which he’d watch later when he had better internet. I sent a picture too. “Look at those cute little goats,” he said. There was that farmer’s soft spot.
We’re getting ready for our annual event, the Global Farmer Roundtable, where we meet a new group of farmers from all over the world. This will be my fourth time attending. Every year is a new crazy adventure, but each time I drive home exhausted, with a big smile across my face, richer for the new relationships.
I grew up on a farm and watched my dad get up at crazy hours seven days a week to milk cows. As a broadcaster, I interviewed hundreds of farmers who were propelled forward by nothing but their passion sometimes. With the worldview that I have now, I see those who figure out food production with minimal resources and fight for access to technology.
I love the chance to make the world smaller, by helping to build relationships across it. I’ve found that farmers everywhere have a lot in common, whether they’re driving an enormous tractor at the head of an air seeding train, or hand planting a seed in a hole. They have important dreams, an incredible work ethic, and big hearts. So while the fields and the technologies are worlds apart, the ideas, the innovations, and the goals don’t have to be.