In the agricultural community, there are many things that set us apart from other industries.
But after a rough spring, the one I notice most is resilience.
And this year, we have definitely needed it.
I can’t recall ever needing to phone so many friends to cry on their shoulders, nor do I remember so many calling me for the same reason. The towel on my shoulder has gotten quite a workout.
There are no ifs, ands or buts about it — many of my friends and contacts have described this spring as “the worst in a long time, if not ever.” If it wasn’t a late freeze that smoked fresh new growth, then it was the lack of heat combined with copious amounts of precipitation, leading to root rot issues. I wasn’t even that familiar with root rot until this spring. It has always been more of a fringe problem for me, not a primary concern keeping me up at night.
Our industry has a tongue-in-cheek saying that “If you want to make a million dollars, start with two million.” Unfortunately, there is some truth to it. We do have risks, although the major losses due to circumstances outside our control are normally outliers.
Loss is always on our minds, though. When a particular crop looks better than it ever has, I like to say that it is “quite possibly” the best crop we have ever grown. The “possibly” is thrown in there because — as we all know — we can get hit at any given moment with an expected or new pest or disease that can put a crop on the express train from “great” to “garbage.”
Is there any other industry, outside of agriculture, where you can be peaking in operational procedures and still get your butt kicked? I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
We can be properly staffed, getting the work done on time, and have professionals operating at the top of their game. Then, with one mid-20 F night in spring, we can still be brought to our knees.
To all the growers, world-changing frontline workers, and especially you in the plant health world — keep your heads up! I know I don’t even need to say that, because no one knows how to stop and smell the roses like we do. Just like rule number #32 in the movie “Zombieland,” we know how to enjoy the little things.
This is how we maintain our sanity. The plants can go full apocalyptic on us, but we maintain the perspective of hope and determination that the next crop will keep us going — because it always does.
It’s no secret to me why the best people I have met in my life come from agriculture. We have a different outlook on life, from dealing with things out of our control that can have a profound impact on our finances.
We stay positive, despite any metaphorical tears on the shoulder from watching our crops (and our margins) die. There aren’t a more happy, humble, or grateful group of people. It’s a fact that when a plant crop dies, we take that lesson, apply it to the next one, and just keep going with a smile on our faces.
If we have our family, community, and faith, we will persevere. We are nurserymen and nurserywomen. We define resilience.