Freedom to Fail

The person that doesn't make mistakes is unlikely to make anything. —Unknown

by Rachael Dupree

The person that doesn't make mistakes is unlikely to make anything. —Unknown (

Spring has finally arrived! This is an exciting notion to all of us itching to break out of our winter coops and get our hands in the soil (that is, if it’s thawed yet). After a very long winter—and it’s been a long winter—it’s almost time to put our anticipated farm plans into action.

For all you adventurous souls, spring means you get to try some of the new farming methods you’ve been learning about while stuck inside. Maybe you’re going to try planting ginger in an area where it’s never been locally grown or perhaps you’re ready to launch your town’s first farmers’ market. In your, case, it’s easy to jump into this uncharted territory. You’ve done your research, you have a backup plan, and if it doesn’t work out—so what?

Well, not all of us are like that. Some of us, as eager as we are to launch into spring with a new project, become overwhelmed by a case of the what-ifs. What if the ginger doesn’t grow? What if no farmers show up to the market? All of these unknowns build up inside our heads, and like a big bucket of water, they splash over our grand ideas, causing the excitement of the season to slowly but surely fizzle out. 

I often find myself in the latter category. While I love to plan and dream about the spring to come, once the time to act is near, the perfectionist inside me takes over—if I can’t tackle a farm project with the utmost perfection, then why bother trying.

This kind of thinking, however, is severely damaging not only to your emotional spirit but to your farm’s success. The beauty in being farmers is that we’re entrepreneurs, scientists and innovators—and much of what we do involves trial and error. Some of the most helpful farm and sustainability technologies and practices come from one farmer willing to take a risk.

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Don’t forget that more often than not, the land is fairly forgiving. Sure, it might not give you that crop you want the first year, but if you work with it and put your love and energy into it, it’s willing to cut you a break every now and then. Take last summer, for example, when no one in my home state of Kentucky had luck growing tomatoes. While no one of my plants did extremely well, I had tons of volunteer vines that kept me supplied in sauce- and salsa-making potential. While the inability to grow a decent crop made us all feel like failures, I actually benefitted from the love I’d given the land in years past.

Take this to heart as you move forward into the growing season, and give your new ideas your best effort even if the uncharted waters seem rocky. Sure, there’s a chance you will sink the ship—and if you do, that’s OK. You’re farm will keep on cycling and you likely have a few farmer friends who will be there to help pull you out of the water. But if you take a risk, there’s also a chance that you’ll embark on a new and exciting venture that will benefit your farm for years to come.

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