For virtually all of my life, I have been involved in some way in agriculture. I was born on a farm. Slugged hay bales in the summer, milked cows, morning and night, from the time I was in grade six until I left home to go to university where I studied agriculture. I worked in the agricultural industry both before, and after, the years when J and I ran our own dairy farm. Our kids were raised on the farm (milked morning and night there too). Agriculture provided a big part of our identity.
When I left to go to seminary, Masterfeeds wondered how I might continue to care for the sheep and goat feed business that was growing. I started Threefold Consulting, and continued to work part time as a nutrition and management consultant to sheep and goat producers. For nearly seven years, I provided support to producers and feed dealers across the province of Ontario. Back in December, Masterfeeds made the decision to take this service back inside their operation and give the work on to one of their employees. It took a little while to pass the work on, but it’s done now.
Giving up the work was difficult. I had worked with some of the producers for many years and had developed deep relationships with the dealers and the staff at Masterfeeds. There is a level of care, a level of ownership, that is just hard to walk away from. These people were my friends, but our connection was really, in most cases based on a professional relationship.
On Friday Threefold consulting came to an end with my last task, a speaking engagement to sheep producers in central Ontario. It was a good event, a receptive group, a full room with challenging questions. It was a good way to end (although no one there knew it was ending).
Driving home though, I realized that my connection to agriculture was pretty well broken. I work for an almost urban congregation now. We’ve moved to a small rural lot, but really don’t have any active, livestock farmers nearby. We’ve just about completed the sale of our farm properties in Huron county. We have, without purposefully thinking about it, stepped away from agriculture.
There is a sense of loss, a sense of grief that comes with the passing of time, the movement to a new season in life. But after driving to my engagement, speaking to the producers, and driving back home (just about 600 km round trip), filling a whole day, ending exhausted, it was also clear that burning the candle at both ends, and from time to time in the middle as well, was not a good long term plan.
While we have stepped away, even if it was not really planned, the soil, and animals will always be part of who we are. Agriculture has been good to us, it has taught us about what is important, how to trust, how to accept grace, how to live with uncertainty. We have enjoyed friendships, built relationships, experienced things that so many have no opportunity to experience.
We are gone from active agriculture, but not far.