With great delight at the Saskatchewan Young Ag Entrepreneurs (www.saskyoungag.ca )meeting on the coldest night in January, I met Greg Johnson, Canada’s Tornado Hunter (www.tornadohunter.com). As farmers we are all sky watchers, and Greg’s photos did not disappoint. He has now compiled his adventures into a wonderful well documented book called “Blown Away”.
Greg’s message to the young farmers was to follow their passion, as he explained being caught up in a business for 10 years with 23 employees, and all the outward trappings of success, yet he felt sad, depressed, and trapped. Here was a man before the audience who has had near death experiences being caught on the wrong side of a tornado, telling young farmers not to settle.
Johnson is also well rooted for adventure and exploration with the role models his travelling parents have set, and his 80 something grandfather who was known to cycle close to 60 miles a day.
I am just curious, are you settling? Are you feeling trapped after a long winter of heaps of snow, cloudy days, and no hope of things changing much on your place?
Depression is a story that I share with Greg’s history, and we both encourage farmers to seek medical attention and get treatment for depression.
Depression can also result from being stuck in nasty circumstances, and that is the other lesson that I learned from some of the young farmers who shared stories of concern for family and neighbours.
Where is it written in the farm family code of conduct rule book that the next generation has to suffer, like their parents or grandparents did ? By suffering, the younger farmers hear “we suffered through as young parents, and you will have to get used to it ?” WHY ? Just because your folks went through difficult dynamics, lack of communication and disrespect with their folks, do you have to suffer the same circumstances ? No !!!
Some folks are never going to be ready to change. You should be the fly on the wall in my office as I get weekly sad tales of 80 something folks who have all the power and control and decision making clout. Or the mother who will not accept the fact that she is going to have make room for a new family member when her child marries soon.
Greg’s expertise as an extreme weather watcher is honoured by Environment Canada meteorologists, because Greg gives them what he calls “ground truth”. The fancy technology and radar can figure out what is going on 100 feet up, but someone needs to be clear about what is really happening on the ground, and that is where Greg’s courage and insight shines.
What is the ground truth at your farm ? Are you willing to have those courageous conversations to shine new light and hope for the next generation ? I have met young men who don’t have a farm to run, and they would love to be adopted in a joint venture project by a family who cares about their passion for the future of agriculture, and models healthy family and business dynamics. Call me and I will give you Brad’s name. He gave me permission to put the alert out.
Don’t accept storms repeating themselves over and over. Sometimes Greg will read all the warning signs right on his specialized laptop and race to where the tornado should be, sometimes he does a lot of waiting, and other times he takes advantage of the amazing green, black or lightning-lit sky even when the “real storm” does not materialize.
Agriculture needs storm watchers who are willing to provide the “ground truth” of what is acceptable behaviour for family business and what is just plain nuts.
I am in the process of developing a training program for farm family coaches who want to do the work I have done for the past 10 years across the prairies. The demand for someone to sit in the sacred space of silence doing the heaving lifting, and giving a safe framework for clarity and certainty is not going to sputter out.
In Greg’s book he quotes Steve Jobs “ Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
If you are feeling that you are never good enough or can never please the founders or other team members on your farm, take a look in the mirror.
What can you change?
What are you avoiding? What choices are you making?
My biggest desire for the SYA group was to instill a sense of hope for them, that as they learn great conflict resolution skills to manage their business risks, and communicate clearly, they will have an awesome future in agriculture.
One young farmer admitted that his passion for summer storms had kept him up all night watching the amazing light show in the heavens. He didn’t do too well at work the next day after only 2 hours of sleep, but he was still very happy he had the experience.
We all want to be happy.
We get out of bed quickly in the morning when we have purpose and passion.
What lessons do you need to learn from watching the storms on your farm ?
What is the ground truth that you need to write into your farm family code of conduct?
I would love to hear your story.
Remember, it is your farm, your family, and your choice.