A curious thing happened the other day. I rang a guy to follow up on his decision to attend a Farming & Grazing for Profit school. He was tentative, to say the least, and when I enquired if I could clarify any concerns or questions he may have, he replied, “If I come along, I hope no-one finds out!”
I let it go through to the keeper but brought it up later in discussion over breakfast during the school. He then opened up and told me that in doing his due diligence on the program he had rung another guy who had completed the course some time ago. Immediately, this other guy collapsed into complete denial saying that he wasn’t at all a ‘greenie’ and that he hadn’t put much of the school into action.
My breakfast friend had to probe further to see what the problem might be for this guy. And as he gently pulled back the layers and built a little trust over the phone, unease was replaced with gentle warmth. The defensive guy finally got that he was not being interrogated, in fact to the contrary, he was being asked to share anything good that he may have learnt at the holistic training.
Well, once the gates of information opened, my friend couldn’t close them and he was regaled with dozens of things that this guy had learnt and tried with varying success or was still yet to try out on his farm. The new water system that will keep up with 500 cows, the planning and monitoring tools that he was now using, the regular meetings he and his crew were now having, the holiday that he and his wife took…a new character emerged over the space of 15 minutes on the phone.
Fact is, this guy had received such a ridiculing from his peers, such a distancing from fellow farmers with whom he was once close, just because he had attended a holistic farming training program and decided to try some fresh ideas. In his words, it was outright bullying from a few select people who he didn’t expect it from. Farmers, who would themselves rank as innovators and early adopters, suddenly turn on one of their own who is doing things a bit differently.
Turns out there is even more to this story. We’ll call him “The Bully,” says, “You ought to know better than to play with that holistic stuff. Remember Tom up at Grassdale did that summer crop thing a few years ago and it sent him broke!” All of a sudden, trying something new sends you broke and everyone remembers when it doesn’t work. Never mind finding out exactly why it didn’t work or what critical piece of the puzzle was left out or not yet known.
Humans (of the farming variety) often fear what they don’t understand. And when their trusted and reliably naïve comrades suddenly head off to explore new techniques or up-skill in non-traditional methods, they either mercilessly ridicule them or, at best, observe from afar with great scepticism. Either way, it can become lonely when you break away from the bunch.
Really, who says there is a certain way of doing things? How far would Apple have come if CDMA had been the only way of doing telecommunications? How far would poly pipe have been developed were it not for a complete accident by ICI in 1933? Whilst the agents of change need to be prepared for resistance to their ideas, the bullies who contribute little apart from degenerative antagonism need to be very careful of their self-imposed constraints.
To quote an inspirational maxim, “Those who say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it!”
RCS Advisor and Educator