Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Joy of Work

I have to make a confession. I am an avid deer hunter, but I have not harvested a deer for five years. I said I was avid, I did not say I was good. That was until Monday. I really didn’t intend to lower the deer population and especially not with our good car, but the deer left me no choice. However my calamity is not what this column is about.
We decided to have our deer damage fixed in the local body shop. I dropped the car off but in the process I struck up a conversation with the owner. We use this body shop because the owner is very particular about the work he does and does things right. He spoke with great pride about his work and even though I know very little about body work on cars I enjoyed listening to him.
Later in the week I hosted a meeting at a local café. I arrived early and talked to the owners about their business. They spoke with great pride about their business, how they decide upon menu items, where their ingredients come from and about their establishment in general. They were very passionate about their occupation and I enjoyed listening to them even if I did not completely understand everything.
Then today, I went to the coffee rotisserie I frequent. The owner roasts and grinds his own coffee and it is the best I have ever tasted. Today he had a new roast and was particularly proud of it. He gave me a sample of each flavor and explained in great detail about the coffee, where it was from and what it should taste like. All of this was way over my head, but I listened intently. He was very passionate about the process of roasting coffee.
All three of these stories have a common line. No, it is not that I like to talk, that is a given. Each of these individuals was working jobs that were more than occupations. They had chosen to make their living in areas that were their passions. I find people like that very refreshing and very interesting. As a farmer and rancher I also relate to them very easily.
In agriculture we are no different. I would guess that very few if any of us chose to farm and ranch because we thought we would get rich. If you did, you are sadly mistaken. Agriculture is something you become a part of because of a fire in your belly; it is what you do and who you are. Many of us are the fourth or fifth generation to farm the land we are on, it is in our DNA.
However, most often we are not very good about telling our story. I truly believe most people want to know where their food comes from and want to know the people who produce it. We all love what we do, we just to convey that to our customers like the owners of the body shop, café, and coffee shop did to me. Farmers and ranchers in the United States are the best in the world at what they do.
If we allow people to see the pride we take in the work we do, I truly believe that we will win many more hearts and instill greater confidence in the food on the grocery store shelf. We all strive to preserve the land, air and water we depend on while caring for our crops and livestock and preserving our way of life.  We all have a story that we can tell and one that many people want and need to hear.
We just need to take every opportunity to tell that story. I think many of us feel like we are bragging about ourselves. Maybe we are afraid our story won’t be understood or we have a hard time finding the time to tell it. We have been conditioned not to talk about ourselves too much. While that may have been good, it needs to change now.
First, you are not bragging, people like to see pride in other’s work and passion for their way of life. I believe that the general public is interested in where their food comes from. They want to know us and they want to trust us. Those listening to our stories don’t have to understand every detail to know that you take pride in your work and you love what you do. Finally, we must find time to tell our story or risk letting those who have an agenda contrary to ours tell our story for us. That is why the next time I go to the body shop (many years from now, I hope), eat at that café, or buy my next cup of coffee, I will take the time to tell each of them about the way of life I have chosen. We will part with them knowing that I am a proud producer of the food we all need.

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