“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Abraham Lincoln

We’ve all heard the statement, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, in times of difficulty and hardship.  Easier said than done, right?  Perspective and attitude play a vital role in the measure of success you will find in entrepreneurial and agricultural pursuits.  One must always be looking to broaden their perspective and polish their attitude.  One day, instead of receiving advice, we will be imparting it to younger generations.  It would be best if we have become equipped to deal with stress and negativity so one can model those skills and qualities to future farmers.

Lemons for lemonade

Lemons for lemonade

Farming, like any other vocation, has moments like these that stem mostly from social, pathological, and financial problems.  Each problem, on its own, can elicit negativity and stress.  Minimizing stress and negativity come about via a multitude of ways.

Life on a family farm, for all, can be very precarious if proper management is not followed.  Every integral part of a farm requires focus and attention.  Animals must be watered and fed consistently, signs of disease need to be addressed by quarantine or treatment, machinery safety must be followed at all times, just to name a few.  On a farm, such as ours, where the farm is becoming diversified but not yet sustainable, plans need to be made and followed so that human error is eliminated.  Prevention and thorough care can eliminate the arrival of events that foment feelings of negativity.  There is nothing more stressing to a farmer than sick animals.  A sick animal causes a farmer to replay the events leading up to the animals poor state of health with uncertainty.  We question our efficacy as farmers, wondering if we’ve done something amiss instead of relying on our personal conviction that we’ve done everything we’ve supposed to do.  Humans, since time immemorial, have been engaged in a war of mental attrition.  How easily we let stress overcome us if we do not learn how to develop coping mechanisms.  A positive attitude goes a long way in providing a foundation to defeat negativity when it rears its ugly head.

Some of  us might not subscribe to this line of thinking but animals can cause us a great deal of stress as well.  A stubborn bull, an incessant barking dog, an abnormally mean rooster, an injured animal, etc. can all cause stress if the behavior is prolonged.  Problems like these can be resolved by various means.  The key is to deal with them in a timely manner.  For example, some people butcher, re-home or sell mean and cruel roosters.  If you’re trying to run a family friendly farm it would be best to eliminate aggression from your breed of chicken.  Small fixes exist so that we avoid larger problems.

Our beautiful herd of mixed personalities

Animal husbandry involves structure in the form of feed times, housing necessities, nutrition, etc. One can maintain a positive attitude in the face of tough times if they have the assurance that they have done right. More importantly, a positive attitude comes from following your heart.  Don’t listen to those thoughts that tell you, “It’ll be fine until tomorrow.”  Try to always act on it by impulse.  Trust your gut.  Doing this can prevent situations that bring about negativity.  Trust me, small family farms have an abundance of opinions.  It is good to swallow your pride and take constructive criticism but don’t second guess yourself.  I second guessed myself this year after taking the opinion of two family members on my 150 tomato plants.  I left the fruit to ripen on the vine, when I wanted to pick it all green.  As a result blight wiped out the entire crop, every last tomato.  I had no idea that there was organic sulfur dust in the greenhouse or that the withering of some leaves was evidence of late onset blight.  In the end, despite being prepared, taking advice meant the downfall of my crop when the likelihood is that I could have saved some fruit.  (But, I’m not passing blame, I’m only demonstrating how negativity can come about.)  However, despite the crushing blow to my tomato crop, I refocused my energy onto our pumpkin patch, which I have been keeping a close eye on.  It looks as though all 120 pumpkin plants are healthy and have produced an array of different sized orange gourds. (I’ll post a blog on our pumpkin patch venture in the very near future)

Howden you doing today?

Howden you doing today?

Negativity can have deleterious effects away from the farm as well.  Sometimes (hopefully, not often), business or family disputes can stick to us like burdocks and travel home with you away from the workplace.  Burrs, when they are plucked, sometimes leave one or two seeds behind, lingering and clinging to you like unwanted baggage.  The same can be said about conflicts.  If issues are not clearly communicated for means of resolution, these small seeds stay attached to you, spilling their way into your home where they can create imbalances in your home life.  The spill over effect can be either positive or negative depending on how it comes into play.  I try to always walk into my home with a smile on my face.  Easier said than done, I know.  Usually, as I drive into my yard, I see the kids playing or waving at me through the window and an immediate feeling of happiness and satisfaction pours over me like a blushing waterfall.  It’s positively positive.  About a decade ago I had the opportunity to visit my cousins in Connecticut, USA.  During a game of billiards with Bill, he shared some wisdom about business relationships that has stuck with me to this day.  He said, and I paraphrase, “Don’t lose your smile and your humility, Justin.  They will take you a long way.  I’ve closed more business deals on account of my smile and attitude than any other way.”  It’s true.  Smiles are infectious.  They are comforting and when they are not genuine, they stick out like a sore thumb.  Smiling is one way to exude your positive attitude and it can forge many strong personal and business relationships.  To this day, when I picture Bill, I see his beaming smile.

This year, after 4 years of teaching mathematics at one school, my job was cut leaving me unemployed and feeling a little helpless.  Farming is a supplement to teaching.  Teaching funds my passion to farm.  The two are mutually inclusive.  Farming is filled with opportunity for education.  Education allows me to share my passion for farming with a potential future generation of farmers.  Imagine how lost I felt when my co-workers and peers returned to work while I joined the supply list.  Lots of room for negativity to stick like velcro to my daily musings and thoughts.  And, it did exactly that for a couple of days.  Thoughts crossed my mind like: Why me? Did I do something wrong? Why does this person have a job but I don’t? How will I support my family? Maybe, I’m not an effective teacher.  These questions and thoughts permeated my thought processes.  Having developed an awareness for negativity I quickly realized the path I was travelling so I purposely shifted my thinking to ways to stay positive.  You can always put the right spin on things.  When it boils down to it, it’s about choices and finding truth in your circumstances.  Looking ahead, supply teaching provides ample opportunity to promote local sustainable agricultural and healthy eating in schools.  Through travelling, I can see different parts of our region on any given day and, time permitting, grab a couple geocaches after each school day.  The experience itself gives me the chance to find empathy for those peers and fellow teachers who are in the same boat.  Further than that, some day I may fall into an administrative role where this very experience could help a young teacher come to grips with sacrifices involved in bettering themselves as school teachers.  So, at this juncture, I have been enjoying all the time I’ve had teaching at different schools.  I’m still praying and honing my craft in hopes that something will become available but the real victory comes in the attitude I put towards my circumstances.  The same applies to farming.

A biblical quote from Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.”  These words are paramount to maintaining healthy relationships, especially familial relationships.  However, this can be incredibly difficult to accomplish without the right attitude.  Jealousy, vindictiveness, resentment, anger, and misunderstanding are incredibly destructive.  They do not build a person up and should be dealt with as soon as possible before they fester and cause more longstanding hurt.  Of course, this all hinges on perspective and the level to which a person seeks to have a peaceful existence.  Time and time again, I’ve seen generational gaps in understanding how people should treat other completely obliterate this idea of resolving conflicts.  Attitude applies to both parties.  The boss with unwavering expectations and the green thumb employee with a pocketful of ideas both have to find humility and flexibility in their thinking to make the business or relationship move forward instead of lying stagnant in a pond stewing with bad emotions.  Attitude is everything.

Finally, who killed Cock Robin? Humor has an incredible track record of dealing with conflict resolution.  If we think of the humorous and jocular exchanges we’ve had (past tense) with people, sometimes we can be quick to overcome our points of contention.  My grandmother once told me of a travelling minister who stopped by the farmhouse to deliver his sermon with an attendance of community members gathered in our heritage farm-house.  After a short prayer, he awoke from a brief lapse into sleep and exclaimed at the top of his lungs, “Who killed Cock Robin!”  We laugh every time this story is shared.  Humor can quickly realign our attitude with positivity, in much the same way that faith does for many of us.  Dealing with stress helps to maintain the health of farmers so farmers can maintain the health of our communities.  Be positive, it really means everything.

For more reading on positivity click on the following link: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/haveamagnificentday/2013/06/turn-lemons-into-lemonade-4.html




Justin MacCurdy

Comments (2)

  1. Louise Boudreau-Bergeron


    Excellent teaching, Justin. I’m truly sorry to hear your job was cut. I say it’s their loss. I also say: Everything happens for a reason. I’m sure greater things will come out of it.
    … “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:10

    Have you considered writing a book?…just a thought 😉

    Have a magnificent day!


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