Farming the Grand Canyon
In early April, Jodie and I had the opportunity to go to the Grand Canyon. We had never even seen the Canyon before, but we were invited to take our youngest daughter, Faith, and go along with three other families to hike. The asset that we had to take advantage of was that Aaron Wilson was going to be our leader and he had hiked the canyon several times. Nothing like the experience of another to give us confidence to do something we would never do on our own. The hike was “epic,” as we like to call it. What an experience. What a challenge. What great friendships to develop. What life lessons to be learned. At the time, I didn’t know how relevant the lessons would be for my life.
If you happen to know Aaron, you would know that we couldn’t just take the “well traveled” route to the bottom of the canyon. There are “back country” trails that most people don’t take for some reason. Oh yeah, I don’t really mind heights, but I really like railings. The idea of a 2-foot wide trail is a cinch if you don’t have a chance of dying when you step a little wide. Our path was to take the Boucher Trail down to the Boucher creek where we would camp for the night. The second day, we would take a “shorter” hike on to Hermits creek leading to the Colorado River where we would camp for the second night, then hike back out on the 3rd day. Tent camping. Carrying all of our supplies.
There were eleven of us total. Four Dads, two Moms, three sons, and two daughters. We learned pretty quickly that the daughters were the mountain goats. The conversations on the trail were great. I love the group we were with, and there is definitely a bonding element when things get tough, beautiful, painful, scary, exhausting, exuberant… etc.
When you are in the Grand Canyon, you are on your own. No cell service. No park rangers. No trail signs. We only saw four other people on the first day out. One lesson that I learned about myself is that I think a lot about the “what ifs”. What if someone falls? What if someone gets hurt? What if it rains, hard? What if we get on the wrong trail? What if we run out of water and the Boucher creek doesn’t have any either? I thought about most of this while I should have been sleeping in our tent. It stinks when your body needs to sleep, but your mind won’t let it.
We hiked 12 miles down the first day, 7 miles the second day, and 11 miles back up on the 3rd day. We experienced so much beauty. I didn’t take many pictures because there was no way to capture it. I was so tired. I was so satisfied. I am so happy that we did it.
Here’s my life lesson. It’s really easy to have a love-hate relationship with the trail. The views are great, but the steps get tough. As I looked around, I had the epiphany that the trail was the only place to be. Whether I liked it or not, there were no other options. There was a reason the trail was where it was. There were no short cuts. For many years and many reasons, the trail has been established where it is. It will get you to the top if you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
What a great lesson for farming this year. From that first week of April until 10 days ago, we had one 3-day stretch without a measurable rain, anytime else the longest was 1 or 2 days. For the first time in my life, it became a real possibility that portions of the crop might not get planted. Every day there was a decision to make. Plant corn? Plant soybeans? Where is the driest field? I started thinking about the “what ifs”. What if we don’t get the corn planted by June 15th? What if we can’t cover our overhead costs? What if our working capital declines? I slept pretty well until I woke up… then the “what ifs”.
Farming can be like that. Farming can also be beautiful. Farming can foster great relationships. Farming can make you feel satisfied. Farming can provide a great living. There is a reason we are on the trail. The trail can be hard and frustrating. The trail can be smooth and gratifying. There is no other option but to stay on the trail. There are decisions to make, but the important thing is to put one foot in front of the other every day. Just when you feel like God has neglected you, He reminds you of His love with a sunrise or a sunset.
What trail are you on? I am convinced that farming is unique, but not so exclusive that everyone doesn’t feel the same at times. Life is a great trail, but it won’t be easy. There are decisions to make. There are unexpected obstacles on your path. When things get tough, keep your eyes on what’s right in front of you. Stop and rest. Enjoy the view. Appreciate the people you are with. Pretty soon, you’ll be at the top of the canyon.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9