Editor’s Note: Getting real about what 2021 means

Tom Button

The worst thing about agriculture is that it goes in cycles. Or so an uncle used to say. “And the worst thing about cycles,” he said, “is that wherever you are in one, it feels like it’s going to stay that way forever.” 

So maybe Uncle Lyle wasn’t as scientific as Bonnie Whitehead, who launches her new Guide psychology column in our September issue. 

At risk of seeming off topic, I want to draw your attention to that column and say how highly I recommend it. Do read it. In fact, read it twice. Then I suspect you’ll consider doing what I’ve already done — set my phone to prompt me in three months to check how much progress I’ve made on the ideas she presents, especially this concept of generativity. 

I have a feeling I’m going to be doing this a lot with Bonnie’s reports. Psychology is too important a science, and we’ve let too many of its discoveries slip past us in the hurly-burly of our everyday preoccupations. 

But let’s get back to Lyle who, as I say, wasn’t being especially scientific. He was just an exceptional observer, as most farmers are. 

His reminder would be, whatever we think this year, next year we’ll think something else. 

That doesn’t take away the angst of a year like 2021. For Hansons Acres in our September issue, young farmer Jeff tells Elaine he wishes the year had been droughty from the very start. “Watching your profits dry up in the field is tough.” 

And who but a farmer can understand the day-after-day relentlessness of a drought, and the thoughts that have to cross your mind of all threats it poses. 

Canada is a big country, but across all of it, there’s a feeling that 2021 has seen us turn a corner, for good or ill. The whole globe seems a bit off kilter. There will be good years, there will be bad years, but will things ever be quite the same? 

Well, Lyle might have something to say about that. The farmer’s job is to learn what the year has to teach, while keeping their focus on a much broader sweep of time. 

We can endlessly debate whether mankind contributes to climate change (I think yes), and whether the extremes of 2021 have been exacerbated by climate change (I suspect they have). 

But what we must agree on is this. 

I know I’m always saying it. The thing that drives agricuture isn’t any one-year trend, it’s the individual farmer making individual decisions, one decision at a time. 

It’s what we have to keep in perspective about a year like 2021. 

Cumulatively, the farmer’s decision-making is the most powerful force in agriculture. Without being immodest, it is one of the greatest forces in the past and future of the world. 

Lyle would be the last one to downplay the challenges of 2021. He had his own to deal with. And, of course, he knew that the burdens don’t fall evenly on all farms. But I feel, and I think he would feel too, that the way we see farmers respond in the next couple of years will, absolutely rightly, fill us with awe. 

Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected]

About the author


Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.



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