I can clearly remember the moment I decided I was going to leave farming. Continued low milk prices had forced cost cutting that made farming a life I no longer wanted. I was grumpy, struggling with motivation and increasingly pessimistic.
It was time for change.
I knew that change for changes sake would initially change everything and then ultimately, nothing at all. Hours of milking cows had allowed my mind to craft the imagery that spoke to the husband and father I wanted to be.
I had come to realise that more than anything, our kids wanted me around more and I wanted to be the role model that I had rather arrogantly assumed I always would be but was nowhere near being. Like everyone, I want my kids to be polite, decent people but how do you teach them to be ambitious, to really put themselves out on a limb and achieve something memorable if I myself was doing the exact opposite.
Easy, I show them by going back to school myself. Cam and Lily have only ever seen their Dad as a farmer and it was time to show them they can do anything by doing it myself.
I spoke to a lecturer at another university about my options given I couldn’t move to a centre with a campus. The reply was emphatic in its bluntness. ‘If you’re serious about a career at anything, don’t consider any distance learning institute other than Massey’. So Massey it was, now, what to study?
Writing speeches that captivate people was always a dream of mine. Ultimately though, a life of farming had shown me many ways I could make a positive influence if I had the scope of information and skills that come with learning. I decided a Bachelor of AgriCommerce would be a fitting complement to my years of hard earned knowledge.
Now, if I have any regrets, it would be that I hadn’t done it years earlier.
For example, farmers know that Clover fixates Nitrogen for other plants to grow. I had always assumed that clover made nitrogen available in the soil for surrounding plants to utilize. Well it turns out I couldn’t be more wrong. The plant doesn’t put any N at all back into the ground, it requires an animal to eat it and go and stand somewhere else and pass the N out through urine. Without animals to graze clover, there is no N for the pasture to utilise.
I apologise to urbanites for not being able to adequately convey how important that piece of information is. I was a skilled farmer yet I didn’t know that and if I had never done 283101 Plants in Agriculture, I would have been forever ignorant about the true role of clover. 117152 Animals in Agriculture has taught me how the cow processes N and how she will survive if she doesn’t get any protein at all.
Someone said to me once ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ and it’s always stuck with me. My degree is not just teaching me how clover works, it’s teaching me to ask the question about how it works and then how to find the answer. With hindsight, it is this that is allowing me to better appreciate my children’s education.
Cam is 10 and he has Autism. If you met him on a good day, you might think he is just a bit quirky. If you met him on a bad day you would think he is trying to take irrational to a whole new level. Trying to explain to my wife why I was sent to town to buy a fridge and came home with a 55 inch TV can be easier than explaining to Cam why his sister wants to be on the tramp at the same time as him.
His journey is remarkable. He has gone from a 4 year old boy who couldn’t communicate to a boy who can go to school and make a significant contribution. Cam usually gets the certificate for trying, never for excellence. But having seen the path life has set for him and how he finds ways to cope, I think he excels every day.
Cam attends Kip McGrath after school to help with his learning. And today, he came home with a t-shirt they gave him. In the last term, he was the student to excel the greatest. In 1 term, he jumped a whole year in comprehension reading and maths. He did this with nothing more than really hard work, battling his poor concentration and focus to work through each sheet until it was done.
How does this fit into this story?
Over this month, thanks to doing 5 papers, I have had countless assignments and tests and sometimes it’s a struggle to stay focused. Yet if my son can do it and for the first time ever, achieve a result others feel worthy of recognising then there really is no excuse for me.
There are no special secrets to succeeding at this. Simply, it is just a case of working hard and not taking short cuts.
I’m here because I wanted to inspire my children and show them they could achieve anything and yet it’s them inspiring me, showing me I can do anything. Failure isn’t an option because I’m not going to tell my handsome magnificent son that I couldn’t work as hard as him.