Oh, what a difference a year makes. I write to you from the comfort of my home, safe and away from most other people. Being away from people, as you might guess, is NOT my natural state.
So many extrovert agritourism operators like me probably spent last Fall struggling to avoid hugging long-time guests and missing terribly end of the season employee parties.
The New Year is filled with new beginnings, new hope, a few new vaccines, a new administration (in the USA), and certainly new challenges.
The next three weeks I’m pausing to answer in three parts a question I ask and attempt to answer each New Year.
The question is: Where do we go from here?
Part 1: “The Rearview Mirror”
The Rearview Mirror. It started easy enough. 2020 was meant to be momentous, not only for the cool decade marking numerals but for my daughter to graduate in May. Off to NAFDMA, we went and enjoyed spending time with friends there, learning, laughing, and loving each event.
Then came March, and things went sideways. Shows canceled, state lockdowns, and we looked, metaphorically, into the abyss. What if we couldn’t open the farm, the market, the corn maze?
In the moment, the world seemed to jerk to a sudden stop. The emotions of the moment, the fear, threat of loss, and stifling restrictions, sat on my chest like an elephant.
I started fielding calls from local farm friends, corn maze clients, NAFDMA buddies, and our Sunflower Mastermind groups were meeting regularly with members now wondering if we should even put seed in the ground.
Wrestling with uncertainty. One of the concepts I’ve wrestled with is how people and organizations deal with uncertainty.
Think back to your own emotions, feelings, interactions, with family, and team, the feeling of stress during that time. The vast majority of those negative emotions stem from our inability to bring certainty from a very uncertain situation.
So, how do you deal with uncertainty?
- Some people say, “What will be will be” – They go on with their lives, acting as if it doesn’t matter what they do.
- Some people grab for control over anything they can control, becoming focused on every detail of every action each person around them takes.
- Some people retreat; they work to hide or insulate themselves from the outside world.
- Some people get angry, angry at politics, angry at family members, angry at themselves. Tony Robbins says that when people shift to anger, it is actually a shift towards certainty: A person can be certain about being angry at “the weather” or “the media.”
- Some people begin ‘information gathering’ by soaking up every podcast, newscast, and Twitter feed, trying desperately to get enough information to make an uncertain world make sense. (That happen to anyone recently with Capitol news events?)
- Some people go into planning mode. Planning is a healthy response to uncertainty as long as the planning mode eventually turns into action.
- Some people just put their head down and go to work, losing themselves in the to-do list to avoid thinking about the uncertain world around them.
None of these reactions are bad or wrong unless you can’t see what’s happening and why you react the way you react. I will say that farmers, in general, are more accustomed to dealing with high levels of uncertainty. Though 2020 was over the top, even for people like us!
In the Rearview Mirror, what did you learn about how you, your family, and your team deal with uncertainty?
- I know farmers in Washington State, led in part by one of my favorite tenacious women Sarah Ricci, fought for the right to open their farms all the way to the governor’s office.
- I know many farms like Lynd’s in OH, Farmer Copley’s & Tulley’s in the UK, and ours included, shifted to online sales and drive-thru events. Taking action to create a new distribution channel is not easy, but perseverance won the day.
- We all had to figure out how to take employee temperatures, social distance on hay wagons, wear masks for 18 hours, and deal with massive supply chain malfunctions for containers, pies, and market items.
It’s a testament to your resilience that you got all these things done, and many of you had, after all the trouble, a wonderfully successful season.
I learned, and had to relearn, that I tend lean into positive energy and my faith, but that I need a support system of people around me. Not even I am all sunshine and rainbows! My team hesitated at the logistics of drive-thru events, but my encouragement pulled them through. Then, I got angry and impatient and had to be taken aside by Matt to be reset to a “people-first” mentality when the stress got me out of whack. It was certainly messy and imperfect here at Maple Lawn Farms!
So, where do we go from here?
It’s tempting to wish for a return to the pre-problematic world; that everything would “go back to normal.”
My challenge to you is:
Do you really want that?
What if you could take some of the changes and victories from your incredible efforts in 2020 and move forward to a new way of doing business? (Albeit, preferably without having to wear that mask 🙂
Next week, we’ll take a look at some things I DO NOT wish to return to the ‘old normal’ as we continue to talk through, “Where do we go from here?”
I’d really LOVE for this to be a conversation, so please write back and let me know what you are glad to see changed and what you can’t wait to return in 2021.
Until then, stay safe and be well,
PS NAFDMA’s Virtual Summit is coming up Feb 4-6 and now you can even get a BONUS Mike Holtzman session “Concessions 101” – The summit looks awesome, even including farm tours done by video IN-SEASON, so you can really see how each place runs. I LOVE my NAFDMA family and welcome you to join the summit LIVE with me. CLICK HERE for more about it. I’m hosting a LIVE Roundtable at the end of Feb 4th’s session so we can hang out!