The Farmer and His Crops

Reader Contribution by Bill Holland
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I am a farmer; a tiller of the soil.  I have been all my life.  Interestingly, I did not realize my profession until just recently, sixty-four years after I was given my tools and my plot of land.  I do not feel foolish in saying that; I believe it to be true of most people I have encountered.

How can that be you ask?  How is it possible that a man, sliding down the backslope of middle age, suddenly realizes his calling in life?  Surely he must be addled; surely he must be daft beyond all hope.


“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.” Unknown author

I was given incredibly fertile land at birth, and I was given the finest set of tools a person could ask for.  As I rested on hands and knees during those early years, I looked out over my kingdom and saw the rich, dark soil and the infinite possibilities of bountiful crops, and I smiled.  Who wouldn’t smile, knowing what I knew then, that greatness was before me, and all that was required was that I do the work and manage my land with great care and love.

I was given two hands, two feet, a mind, imagination and determination.  I was given support and love, and if there was a limit to my potential I certainly did not see it.

So I planted my seeds in the springtime of my life, and as generations had done before me, I watered them and tended to them gently.


Bitter winds blew as the years passed, loosening the soil, tearing at the roots of my young crops.  Those roots were too shallow; they had not had time to grow deep and strengthen, and the much-needed nutrients had not soaked into the young plants.

No windbreaks had been grown for protection; the elements continued to pound unmercifully, and this gardener had no answer for the onslaught.

How does one anchor the roots?  How does one stop the wind, the rain, and the snow?  The answers to those questions were in the gardening books that had been given to me by my parents at a young age, but they had been abandoned on the shelf, gathering dust, forgotten at a time when they should have been opened and memorized.

We all have such books.  We all have the wisdom of the ages awaiting us each and every day, but all too often wisdom is wasted on impetuous youth, and so it was for this farmer.  The answers were there for the taking, but I was much too busy blaming the wind, blaming the rain, blaming the snows and yes, blaming the damn soil.

To blame the nature of life is a fool’s errand, and I was a fool for sure.


We are told that patience is a virtue, but no one ever mentions that patience requires patience.  LOL  Oh, how unfair that is!

We are also told that pain is a great motivator, and so it was for this gardener.

For too many summers I went without crops.  My stomach cried out for the sustenance that was sorely lacking, and the pain, at times, was almost unbearable.  Slowly…ever so slowly…the realization came to me that the answers were not to be found in blame, nor were the answers to be found in quick-fix solutions that held no future bounty.

I needed to return to basics, to those gardening traditions and principles that had been handed down to me so many years before.  I needed to properly prepare the soil.  I needed to surround my fields with wind breaks to protect them from the harsh winds, and I needed to ask for help from neighboring gardeners when I was in search of answers.

I pulled the dusty tomes from the shelf and blew off the years of neglect.  I bought myself new gardening clothes, and I took the cotton out of my ears and stuffed it in my mouth.  I became a farming student, empty of opinion and ego, desperately willing to listen as only the dying can be.

Miraculously, or perhaps not at all so, the jet stream shifted and the warm, gentle breezes of rejuvenation blew through my garden.  The soil warmed; the roots held deep; the life-giving sunshine bathed my land in its elixir, and my crops once again rose above the surface and reached for the heavens.


The struggles ended six years ago.  I have experienced six years of bumper crops, each year better than the last.  I walk the garden this year and I can predict with certainty that 2013 will be another record-breaking year for my crops.

Do not be mistaken in thinking that the harsh winds never return, for from time to time they slice down from the north with icy breaths and piecing threats of doom.  They do not, however, pose a threat, for I have learned to trust in the soil and trust in the nutrients I have added over the past six years.

I have learned to carefully mix equal parts of compassion and love, empathy and happiness, into a fertilizer that is the equal of any potion ever concocted.  It is a growth hormone for sure, and one I have no intention of abandoning in the future.  As long as I continue to sprinkle its sweet nectar on my garden I am rewarded with priceless gifts year after year.


There are times in life when we farmers/gardeners try to complicate life too much.  We are like ships on a fog-shrouded sea.  Our sight is disrupted; our hearing confused by the sounds muffled by the fog.  A world we once felt a kinship with no longer resembles anything we have experienced, and we lose our way in the fogbank.

We never think to check our personal compass!

Our personal compass will always point to true north, but we must be willing to accept that reading as the truth.

So it was for this gardener of life.  Once I trusted in my own personal, internal compass, I was fine.  Once I trusted in the wisdom handed down to me decades ago, and quit trying to re-invent the wheel, I was fine.

The land I had been given sixty-four years ago was the best I could have ever hoped for.  The tools were forged from strong metal and would withstand the elements.  The wisdom handed down to me was timeless and true.

All that was left for me to do was to trust in that truth.

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