Blog Post

Trust & belief in people.

These teens are doing a team-building exercise called a Trust Fall. Have you ever done one? I’m in the process.

Trust & belief in people.

You’re not going to believe this, but Farmer Hugh left the farm in summer time.

It was very important to my wife and our group of friends we’ve known and celebrated New Years with for 30 years.

Our kids have grown up knowing each other and having this wonderful annual check-in as the clock counts each year. The kids are almost all off to college or starting their own lives.

This was a group trip to see if we enjoyed each other’s company and if the group could endure Hugh’s sense of humor for more than two days a year.

More on the trip in a future blog.

The trick is this: How does Farmer Hugh leave his small business in the middle of a barn-building project, Fun Park prep, sunflower growing season, peach season, and winemaking?!

Some background. Farmer Hugh grew up in a workaholic environment. It was all I ever knew, really. After four generations, you’d think the farm would nearly run itself! However, growing up was a daily grind to make crops through bad weather, keep the irrigation running, wrangle enough help, or harvest.

Farming can be an endless grind. There is ALWAYS work to do, so you grow up thinking that working more hours is the only way to move the farm forward and grow the business.

Work = Progress. Period.

After leading that lifestyle, as the lovely Miss Janine will tell you, through many of my kids’ younger years, I’d burnt the candle at both ends for so long that the “life” had gone out of the lifestyle.

Last week I wrote about change and how I love change, even seeking it out. In life, we often only make changes once it’s too late, until disaster.

My disaster (at least the one we’ll reference in this blog) came when my mother got cancer and, within a year and a half… died.

Gail McPherson was the epitome of hard work, endless enthusiasm, positive collaboration, simply a joy to be with, and a hard-paying woman of God.

She still died too soon for my liking, and after endlessly questioning “why,” I realized that human life is a timeline.

Life starts at birth and ends at death, and the fleeting time we have in between is when we make the difference.

So I started trusting people. If there’s a singular lesson Farmer Hugh can share with the world, it is to:

Expect great things from people before they expect it themselves, trust people more than you should, and give each person the benefit of the doubt.

What do I mean by that? Does it sound like hokey platitudes? That is different than the way I recommend deploying this framework.

Expect. If you work for me, I spell out my expectations. I write expectations down, and staff members sign that they understand them. We don’t care about your family background, appearance, or what’s happening in your life. We expect that you will come to work to do your best for our guests and the business.

Results. We have seen the most polished, well-spoken, well-to-do, every-advantaged teenager come to work and utterly fail to perform, and we’ve seen kids who started shy, rough-around-the-edges, broken back-stories rise and shine to become leaders of others.

Expectations matter.

Trust. Assign the tasks, support the person, and get out of the way. Because we work together nearly every day of the year, Michelle, my right-hand lady, sometimes forgets all the fantastic things she’s learned to do that helped us grow this business.

After 27 years working together, Michelle runs three payrolls, develops fun, exciting corn maze game sheets and stations, helps us ship products worldwide, schedules 75-80 staff members, pours wine, travels to trade shows, and on and on and on and on. She has mastered EVERYTHING with which she has been entrusted.

I’m only leaving the farm because of the trust in my Dad, Matt & our farm team; our teens, who have been working for 3-4 years, are essentially running the set-up over the next week unsupervised because I trust them to supervise themselves.

Have I ever gotten burned trusting people? Sure! Those people don’t work here anymore, and the number of times burned is so few when viewed in the scope of history. I can’t remember a specific incident, and I CHOOSE not to ponder it.

Trust builds value inside people. Trust more.

The benefit of the doubt. That’s a weird phrase, so let me unpack what I understand it to be.

In life, I will always assume that you are working in our best interest. You receive the benefit, the optimistic assumption, if any particular issue is in doubt.

My wife is a strong, beautiful, productive woman who loves me and our kids. So, if something doesn’t make sense, be it a choice she’s made, a text she just sent, or a disagreement we seem to be having, I will ALWAYS assume that The Lovely Miss Janine is working in the best interest of our family AND my best interest. She gets the benefit of the doubt.

If a task took the teens two extra hours more than I thought it would, I’m going to ask them about the process with the ASSUMPTION that they were trying hard, working hard, and trying to get things right.

What a relief! Imagine the week in your life when you operate with the assumption that your family and co-workers are working together for the common good.

One caveat: I (and YOU) must, therefore, always be working for THEIR common good. Offering the benefit of the doubt is a LEARNED behavior that is best learned from someone modeling it.

Trust & belief. I am on a plane writing this while people I trust and believe in work to make great things happen at the farm.

Spreading this message of trust and belief builds up family, friends, and co-workers from the inside out, and it is critical to escaping the burnout of trying to control every person’s every action every day.

This farm, maze, sunflower fest, winery, orchard can only function with the incredible team that pours themselves into the process each day.

Farmer Hugh cannot be the man he needs to be without this team allowing him to snuff the workaholic candle to rejuvenate with friends and family.

My final encouragement is this: Don’t wait.

Don’t wait until your mother dies, the project is done, the kids are older, someone’s in a car crash, you get a diagnosis, or your daughter never calls anymore.

Trust people now. They won’t disappoint you. If they do, give them the benefit of the doubt, then trust them again.

Life’s too short.

Have a great week,


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