Tue, 10 May 2022
This morning I was out in one of our pastures moving our sprinkler line. I was wet, my hands were muddy and wet and I was already behind the 8 Ball for the day. As I normally do, I had a podcast playing while I worked, and the host of the show read a quote that has been attributed to Thomas Edison. The quote stopped me in my tracks.
The quote says, "Opportunity is missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work".
This quote really struck me for a couple of reasons. First, as I often say on the show, farming is a lifestyle business. If it were not about the lifestyle than nobody would invest all the time, the heartache, the work, the money and the education into it. You could invest all of that into other enterprises that would return you a lot more on that investment.
Those of us that farm cannot be afraid to work, and eventually that turns into opportunity. Of course, those that do not farm see your later success as a snapshot of that moment, and they never see all of the risk and hard work that led up to that moment. Talking about this always reminds me of a conversation with a friend when they found out that I had become the host of the D&B Supply Radio Show & Podcast. They asked me how I was able to do that, and before I fully answered they replied with "you just kind of fell ass backwards into it?", answering their own question.
I let that one go, as I just did not have the energy or motivation to justify all of the work I had done to reach that moment. We are still friends and there were no hard feelings, but this is a perfect illustration of people not seeing the hard work that is behind momentary success.
The other reason that this quote struck me so powerfully was that I was actually wearing overalls. I'm not talking about Carhartt bibs that have become standard winter workwear. I am talking about denim overalls that farmers in the 30's would have been wearing as standard work clothing. I am talking about clothing that almost nobody wears any longer and will definitely garner you a second look from strangers if you wear them to town.
My step-grandfather wore overalls every day of his life, and every day that I knew him. He only ever changed into pants if he was going to the sale or going to the doctor. Other than that, he wore overalls. I always wanted a pair, but I never allowed myself to get a pair until I actually had my own farm. Now, Autumm and Hattie, tacitly accept my work wear choices with a smirk every now and then, but I tell you, there has never been a better piece of work clothing invented. I am all about function and not about form, so if you want to see someone in denim overalls, just come on out to my farm.
Standing there on 33 acres of open ground in one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S. and the most rapidly appreciating real estate market in the U.S., I knew what was under my feet. And, I also knew that many people would have cashed out long ago in order to move into a life of leisure because they don't see work as opportunity. I thought of another statement that had been made to Autumm and I a few years earlier. As real estate had been appreciating in our area for some time, this person was speculating what our farm was worth. Then she said, "if this place is worth......, I'd sell it tomorrow and be done with all this work." Obviously, we didn't purchase our place just to turn around and sell it. Our farm is the culmination of a 20 year dream of farming, not land speculating. But, looking at the statement from that person today proves that Edison was correct, if he did, in fact, say that. Our place is probably worth twice as much as that person was speculating back then, and over the course of the past 3-4 years since she said that there has also been a lot of "opportunity" on our farm disguised as work dressed in overalls.
During the moment I heard that quote, I had a feeling of satisfaction, and I knew that at least I was following Thomas Edison's model of finding success, and couldn't be all bad. And, I'd never been more proud to be wearing overalls.
More Places You Can Listen to Off-Farm Income And Matt Brechwald: