This piece was previously published in Darren Frye's "Finance First" column at FarmFutures.com.
I got to thinking recently about some of the qualities that the best farmers, as a group, tend to share. A passion and commitment to farming, for sure, is one of the traits you see in those farmers. They're in it for the long haul and work to do the best they can and continually improve what's been entrusted to them.
Another quality that I think goes right along with the passion and commitment of farmers is their “grit.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives two definitions of grit: the first is the literal definition: "very small pieces of sand or stone." The second is the one I'm thinking about with respect to farmers: "mental toughness and courage."
Grit has long been an essential element of a farmer's make-up – but maybe even now more so than ever. One of the most interesting things about that second definition of grit is the fact that it's focused on a person's mental toughness rather than physical.
It's what we regularly tell ourselves in our minds that ultimately determines how we act. There's a battle going on in there at all times. And that mental toughness and resoluteness can make the difference between sitting back and wondering what to do next, or moving forward and asking: "What can I do today to create a better future?"
The farmer with grit stands firm even when times are tough and others falter around him or her, yet resolves to keep moving. Working as hard and as smart as you can, controlling what you can control, and making plans to deal with whatever you can't control, the farmer with grit continues on, always seeking to improve along the journey.
Grit is a choice
The key is that the farmer chooses grit, chooses to practice being mentally tough. Every time they chose mental toughness in the past, it became more and more ingrained in their character and immediate response. Eventually, it's one of their character traits—a flexible strategy to respond in a positive way to the uncertainty that's part of farming.
Like the farmer with a true passion for farming, the farmer with grit isn't intimidated or afraid of different cycles in agriculture, but uses his or her mental toughness and resolve as an opportunity to create contingency plans for whatever the farm operation may face.
Do you know some farmers with grit? Maybe you're one of them. How did you develop mental toughness during your farming career? What are some ways to help the next generation on your farm develop their own mental toughness in the face of obstacles?