By Sam Dolcini
All societies have ways of forming ideas and expectations in the people connected to them. One of the interesting aspects of American culture is the sense that life is made up of contests and highly organized settings. In these settings to be successful you need to either be the winner or meet a set of requirements, with an end point where these winners and completers are honored.
For example, in football the winner is normally chosen after four quarters, and in baseball after nine innings someone comes out on top. BUT real life is just not that way, and sports are not the only setting that is this structured. Youth organizations and high school and college curriculum have also trained us that there is going to be an end point, there are requirements to meet in order to graduate or become an American Farmer or Eagle Scout. If and when you meet those requirements, you have “succeeded” … but then there is the rest of life.
In the rest of life there really are not many places where there are definite ends to any projects. Real life is actually more like a combination of continued related connected events. Builders may revel in the completion of a big building or freeway, but while the celebration occurs, they are all keeping their fingers crossed that the company was the low bidder on the next big project.
This lack of end points when contrasted to the backdrop of sports, education or youth development if not viewed correctly can almost become frustrating, especially in a country with a government that is managed by elected representatives.
It is for this very reason that I have taken a new view on issues of the day. When you have a pro-production, probusiness mind set in the current climate in California I have realized an adjustment is in order to minimize great frustration. In life there will be little wins and losses, ebbs and flows, but in the end, aiming for big victories at the end of a game with cheering crowds are just going to be very few and far between. Instead, it is better to place oneself in a position to be effective rather that attempting to be a “Joe Montana” hero type.
Rather than focus on big wins or loses I have taken a new approach. I am now approaching things more like the game of chess. Yes, there are winners or losers in chess, but patience and focus are key.
While football games may end with a long Hail Mary pass to the end zone, or base ball game can conclude with a walk off home run, chess is a game made up of lots of small and calculated moves, with many pieces that all have limited options on the board, both by design and based off decisions of your opponent. A chess player is challenged to make many small moves to put themself in a location to have an effect.
To that end a few times a year I am going to work on finding a place on the chess board of life where I am if not the only, at least one of the few farmers in the room with the hope that it will be a small but effective “move”. I have been to lots of events with other aggies, and I mean LOTS. I may have even seen readers of my monthly musings at these events. These events are impactful and important, and big ag events attended by elected officials can send a message about the strength, issues and interests in our industry. But if I don’t come to the next crab feed, annual meeting or convention, I am not sure one less Sam in the room would have much of an impact.
But if I am at an event with no other aggies other than say Bob and Audrey Muelrath, and the speaker see us and makes a comment about agriculture THEN everyone in the room hears about us. When our new assemblyperson Damon Connolly sees a farmer in the room and mentions agriculture in his remarks then the rest of the urban attendees may understand that agriculture is part of the district he will be representing.
The good news is that many in our community do this already. For example, Rick LaFranchi regularly attended a very urban breakfast club for years in Marin County where he was the only farmer in the room. John Balletto and Steve Olsen are both members of Rotary Clubs in the area, and I am guessing they are the only aggies in the room at times. I am sure the list of “the only farmers in the room” is FAR longer than I realize, but it also a list that can be easily expanded.
Any time someone is the only farmer in the room, and they speak up, or answer a question, or buy a table at a fundraiser and invite their friends, they are making moves on the local chess board that should lead to greater understanding of our industry, and therefore garner more support.
So, my New Year’s Resolution, and I hope to convince at least one reader to join me, will be to find just one event this year that maybe you might not have attended in the past where you are the only aggie, and be there to share your perspectives and ideas. If going solo to an event like I have described pushes your comfort level, then take a friend. Why, shoot, it would probably be even more than twice as effective if there were two farmers in the room where there were none before.