The Value of Mentorship

Reader Contribution by Dyan Redick and Bittersweet Heritage Farm
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Do you have a farming mentor? If not, consider finding one. Preferably, someone who was born in a farming family, has spent their life on a farm and admits to knowing, they don’t have all the answers.

Today, a lot of folks jump on the internet as soon as they have a problem. Whether it’s plants or animals, there’s plenty of “advice” on line. What my farming mentor told me, early on was, “if you meet someone who thinks they know everything about goats, get away from them.” I have found that to be true, in the real and the virtual world. 

I’ll call my mentor, who fits into the lifetime farmer category, ask him about a problem I’m having. “Brian”, I’ll say, and I’ll go on to describe what’s happening. “Don’t know, never had that before,” he’ll say. I laugh.

I’ve learned, farming is a little like detective work. When you break down and start to pick apart the problem, eventually, sometimes, you come up with a solution. More often, it’s a process of elimination and calculated guesswork. Having a mentor to work it through, helps.

I am a big fan of Temple Grandin. Someone with a different perspective. Dr. Grandin, PhD, was born with autism. Yet, she has gained international recognition and respect for devising solutions to simple farming issues. Companies like McDonalds have hired her to teach their “cowboys” how to round up herds of cattle. It’s all in the details. Little things we miss. Through her work, we’re learning how animals perceive their environment. When we know how they view the world, we can better understand what their needs are. Once we know that, the relationship between us and them becomes a partnership. It makes everything from rounding them up to milking, easier. If you’re not familiar with her work, I highly recommend checking her out.

My mentor doesn’t have autism, but he intuitively knows animal “language”, and has been listening for 70 plus years. It’s priceless. The trick is, pay attention. It’s all in the small details. His method of teaching and learning. Observation. No need for words.

Today, we are bombarded with information. When you choose a farming lifestyle, most of the information you need is right under your nose. If you listen, watch, smell, feel your way through your day, the answers come. Leave your head out of it. It only confuses things. Meet your local lifetime farmers. In the dirt under their nails, the callused hands, the lined faces are all the answers you need. Trust in it. I do. It’s never steered me wrong.

Dyan Redickis an artisan cheesemaker, writer, and fiber artist is coastal Maine where she operates Bittersweet Heritage Farm, a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farmstand full of wool from a Romney cross ?ock, goat’s milk soap, caramels, woolens, and whatever else strikes her fancy. Follow Dyan on Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.