They stride down the sidewalk on a mission. The boots are dusty. The work pants are creased and stained well past the skills of any washing machine – the hat tips to each local and those passing briefly through town alike.
They walk purposefully down each aisle of the local supermarket. The shirt tucked into well-worn jeans that tackle every minute of every day with confidence. They nod and smile as each trolley passes by. Niceties exchange, and it’s all focus again.
To the untrained eye, they’re brusque, confident, determined, perhaps even arrogant. To those of us in the know, it’s an entirely different story.
Farmers are comfortable in themselves and presume that everyone around them is too, treating everyone as if they’re confident even if they’re more vulnerable than they let on. That level of comfort that comes across as arrogance is born from a lifetime of having to make instant decisions. In farming, you can’t be on the fence. You have to make a choice and roll with it. Often those choices turn out to be wrong in hindsight. We are human, and we cannot predict the future, nor can we prepare for every eventuality. The only certainty is uncertainty, and so we learn to be confident in making the best choice at the time and adapting as we go. Is this arrogance? No. It’s a lifetime of experience in trusting that sometimes we get it wrong. It is confidence in their ability to adapt regardless of how the best choice can become a bad one.
The brusque farmer often has no time to chat about the little things in life. They’re not trying to be rude. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s the million jobs and thoughts flying through their head that leaves very little space for the little things. Planning a week’s work of meals for a family, whilst remembering there’s a ewe to check. Knowing it might end up being a job pulling a lamb in the darkness of dusk with mosquitoes swarming thirstily. Recalling every vehicle in need of a service, every fence that needs mending or replacing, the entire chemical list that needs picking up and when the kids’ sports games are on the weekend. This farming gig takes up a LOT of mental space. The best of us are great at compartmentalising so that we can be present in each moment. We’re not all super talented; if we’re brusque, it’s unintentional.
When the combination of brusque and confidence combines in a social setting, it can be very unsettling. I’ve had it happen to me; farmers can be super intense. We’re scientists at heart, and we love to debate the merits of one methodology over another. We often expect the other party to discuss the topic enthusiastically, even if they’re not a scientific mind. Sometimes this can be seen as ‘fact bashing’, and it’s a damn shame for a few reasons. One, we care. We’re not just scientists; that’s just the most straightforward space to debate any topic. Facts and evidence are more accessible. Two, we put people offside very quickly when we confidently tell them they’re mistaken in their belief in a particular methodology.
I ask one thing of you if you’re not a farmer, don’t presume that we don’t want to be present and talk about the little things. Please help us be present in the now and not lost in the neverending world of farming. I also ask you if you’re a farmer, listen to the person in front of you and ask them questions that help you connect. When you ask a question, listen. Don’t be formulating your response to that question in your head. Be there, connecting with another human.
Let’s get rid of ‘the aloof farmer’.