DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Real life is a complicated but satisfying recipe for Meredith Bernard. Farming, being a farm wife and mother, and homeschooling two children would fill a normal plate, but she adds a big side helping of blogging and telling agriculture's story to the mix.
It wasn't a life she imagined for herself, but she relishes it with a healthy dose of realism that resonates with readers and listeners. Bernard is one of four blogger/contributors to Progressive Farmer's Our Rural Roots column, which has gained a following for its down-to-earth thoughts from writers who put on muddy boots every day and aren't afraid to talk about the complexities of farm life.
Speaking to the virtual DTN Ag Summit this week from North Carolina, Bernard explored her decision to leave a decade of working full-time in agriculture sales behind to raise beef cattle and children and drive a tractor. Not being tied to the daily grind of corporate life, she was also able to explore passions, such as photography and writing.
It takes courage to reinvent oneself and more than a little grace to keep at it. Bernard has had to learn that not everything one tries works and that sometimes being real is better than being bold.
"The important thing is to focus on the fact that your story matters. It doesn't matter if you are a newbie to farm life -- like me -- or you've grown up with the farm, your voice matters and your opinion matters," she said. "Your goals, your dreams and your aspirations for your operation matter."
Mixing farm and family can get messy, Bernard acknowledged. Stressors such as weather, cash flow, equipment breakdowns and many other factors can strain relationships. "I literally cannot think of a single day recently that something hasn't broken or needed fixing on our farm," she said.
The tendency to avoid conflict rather than address it can cause hard feelings when working together, she noted. Bernard encouraged DTN Ag Summit listeners to keep trying open communication techniques that encourage growth and learning. Rather than let disagreements fester, she encouraged being thoughtful in responses rather than reactive.
"Things that are second nature to my husband are all new to me. I still feel like on a daily basis that I'm never going to learn all of this," she said. "But then I remind myself that I'm still learning. I'm still growing."
NEXT STEPS: COMMUNICATION
Bernard encourages everyone to ask: What's Your Why?
"What keeps you going? What is it that gets you up every morning and keeps you putting your boots on? Why do you love farming? What do you want to learn? Why is all this important to you?" she asked.
Armed with that answer, you can begin to share that vision with those working with you. "Have you told these things to your parents? Your spouse? Your children? Your co-workers?," she asked. "Have they shared their why with you?"
Goals are great, but if 2020 has taught us anything it is to embrace the here and now. "Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves wishing for tomorrow and don't make the best of what we have to work with today. We want aspirations and dreams and to keep working toward them, but the important thing is to not miss what's in front of you now," she said.
Giving yourself the right to feel good with how things are right now and celebrating accomplishments no matter how small are important, she added. "We have a lot of sayings around this farm such as "can't never could" and "failure isn't final."
Bernard points to a harrowing event that happened to her several years ago when the tractor and hay rake she was driving rolled back down a steep hill and jackknifed. "I was so lucky, but I learned what I did wrong and kept on trying.
"I hope that when I tell these stories that others see they are not alone and that brings value to others. Telling our stories places a value on ourselves and what we do," she said.
Blogger Meredith Bernard writes, takes photographs and ponders life and agriculture from her North Carolina family farm. Follow her on Twitter @thisfarmwife and visit her website at www.thisfarmwife.com. Her column appears in Progressive Farmer and DTN under "Our Rural Roots" column.
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