I caught up with my friend, “Farmer Mark” the other day. When I asked him what he’d been doing, he explained “There’s always something to do. I’ve been mowing for days.”
Green and red combines toiling long hours in the coming weeks will signal to the rest of us that the harvest is upon us, and it got me thinking about what goes into farming.
Being the #1 producing corn county (and #2 in soybeans) in the country doesn’t occur by happenstance. McLean County is blessed with rich soil and technological advances that have dramatically contributed to record yields and production.
But it always comes down to natural laws and people, and as a result, we see highs and lows with the harvest.
How had Farmer Mark been spending his days recently? Maintaining equipment, making repairs, mowing ditches, and getting ready for a harvest that he’s been working on the whole year.
Often, we can have pre-conceived notions about certain occupations, organizations, and outcomes. For the farmer, they frequently toil unnoticed and under the radar. We see them in the spring and the fall, and may wonder what they do with all that “free” time.
Stephen Covey talks about the “Law of the Farm” in his seminal work “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In essence, he describes how there’s a time and a season that works according to certain inherent natural laws.
Covey explains, “a social system is based on values; a natural system is based on principles. In the short term, cramming may appear to work in a social system. You can go for the ‘quick fixes’ and techniques with apparent success. But in the long run, they just don’t work.”
Farming and fundraising both work in natural systems based on principles. Cramming won’t work. For Farmer Mark, there’s a constant preparation of equipment, seeds, and fields in order to be ready for that harvest. It takes time, months and sometimes, years. He doesn’t plant in August and harvest in September!
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked how he expected this harvest to be. He farms fields all over McLean County, and he simply shrugged, responding “Some fields look great and should do fine, but others just aren’t growing like we anticipated.” Spotty or ill-timed rain, heat, and insects definitely affect the harvest.
We’re blessed with a lot of resources in McLean County, and recent Pantagraph coverage consistently highlights how the yields for United Way’s efforts have fallen dramatically compared to a few years ago. Some of our most consistently fertile fields have produced significantly less due to the same kind of varied and complex factors that affect Farmer Mark’s fields. This creates an urgency to make dramatic changes to increase the final numbers. But just like the “law of the farm” that Stephen Covey and Farmer Mark know all too well, we’re governed by natural laws.
We’re carefully considering how these natural laws impact our fundraising efforts and resisting the urge and in some cases, the pressure, to apply quick fixes that as Covey stresses, won’t create sustainability, simply to meet an arbitrary value of a social system.
We don’t profess to have all of the answers; we welcome your ideas and input! As we continue our fundraising efforts, just like our local roots, we pay attention to the “law of the farm” in finding sustainable solutions in accordance with principles. Like Farmer Mark, we’ll continue to work quietly, typically behind the scenes, in order to reap a bigger harvest in the future for all of our communities in McLean County.