I sit down to pen this column having just finished packing my suitcase for the days I will spend at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. When you read my words, I will be headed home from this annual farm show.
While at the Farm Progress Show, I will have the chance to ride and drive tractors of an assortment of colors and horsepower.
We do not all drive the same make or model of tractor, nor do we plant the same brand of seed, use the same crop inputs, or apply the same amount of fertilizer to every acre for which we are the steward.
We are much better farmers if we pay attention to our own land and livestock, using the tools and inputs that best meet our needs and expectations instead of worrying only about what are neighbors are doing.
There are certainly lessons to be learned through observation and another’s experiences; however, every farm and every herd is unique. What works for others might not work so well for me, and vice versa.
Respecting and appreciating the ways we are alike as well as that which makes us different will take us a long way down the road.
Whether it is red, green, orange, yellow or blue equipment on an organic or “conventionally” managed farm, farmers are more alike than different.
There is a sameness at the heart of the farmer, whether they are growing white crops like rice or cotton, No. 2 yellow corn, soybeans, or sugar beets.
Having traveled with farmers from the United States to visit farmers in South Africa, Brazil and other countries, I have seen the same look in their eyes.
The crop, equipment, management style, soil type and all other variables make no difference when one farmer stands next to another.
The kinship of those who like to grow things is silent and powerful and draws them together like metal to magnet.
Why, then, do we continue to fight among ourselves instead of working together? A rising tide carries all boats. We should not allow agriculture to become more fragmented.
We should stop looking for that which divides us and focus on that which makes us stronger together.
Do not give up your beliefs. Remain accountable. Remain true to yourself. But listen to those who believe differently and find a common ground.
Talk less. Listen more.
You are going to find more often than not the point dividing you does not have to be a line drawn in the sand.
We need forward thinkers representing us who are not afraid to look past the way we have always done things and listen to different ideas if they make sense.
We also need to accept the fact that some ideas do not make sense and we are better off doing things the way they have always been done.