I come from a family of farmers; my paternal and maternal grandparents were farmers. My mum and uncles as well.
My grandfather came from China and migrated to Brunei where they settled. I heard from my mother that when my grandparents arrived, my grandma said that Brunei was a ‘Land of Gold‘. This is because whatever you try to grow, will grow.
And that was how the business of farming in the family grew.
In my younger days, I remember visiting the plantation my grandpa owned. He used to own hectares of land when he was still around. And it was through farming that he brought up his children in the olden days.
Whenever we visited during the Chinese New Year, there would be loads of fruits that we’d loot from. From what I remember, Grandpa’s collection of vegetation ranged from long bean to many exotic fruits like longan, durian, jackfruits, langsat, rambutan to mandarin oranges.
I have never had the chance to explore the farm further than 2km off his house as I was still pretty young back then, but imagine the work, time, money and effort that he invested in to grow the farm to where it was then.
Knack for Farming
Unfortunately, it seems I have never inherited the genes nor the talents of farming.
I am bad with identifying vegetable names; I have trouble identifying parsley and coriander, also between Chye sim and spinach.
Every plant I have tried to grow have withered to nothing but the black soil that remained on the pot.
Not so for my mother. Despite her fear of earthworms, which is a pre-requisite, farming – planting flowers, trees and vegetables – runs in her blood.
While my grandpa had vast areas of land to farm, my mum only has her small plots of waste land beside our homes to have fun with. It is no secret that my mum has a passion/ love/ talent for farming. Even when she experiences bad back, she is still so passionate about her crops. She’s always making sure she waters them, removing the weeds and harvesting them when ready.
These crops bring her little income and I suspect that’s not why she works so hard for her plant. I believe she gets most of her unspoken happiness and/or contentment in life from farming or growing plants.
“There is a scholar in every field,” mum said. And I agree indefinitely.
What talent and knowledge she owned in farming is zilch to me. And what I know in my job, she does not understand.
However, I do strongly believe and often wish for her knowledge and talent in farming as it is practical. What we learned from farming can also be applied anywhere we go, wherever we are in our lives. She is my inspiration for many theories in life, be it in entrepreneurship to speaking our mind to living our own lives; not only in farming.
Visitors would always be in awe whenever they came to visit our home when they see how flowers bloomed. Or how they were cross pollinated (think pink and white bougainvillaea in one shrub). Personally, I have seen how the sugar canes and maize that my mum casually planted would grow taller and sweeter than what the other neighbours tried doing.
Though I am an idiot in farming, here are 12 lessons I observed and learned from her in the farming language which is also applicable in life and business terms.
Commitment. Dedicate your time, attention and focus on your crops because if they grow well, it means you get to harvest fresh beautiful crops or sweet juicy fruits and you get to enjoy the benefits of such harvest.
Be it your project in school or work, or your responsibilities at home or in the society, being committed to them demonstrates that you are not only responsible but also that your hard work, time and effort will bear you sweet results that you want eventually.
Consistency. Watering the crops, weeding them out, taking care of the plants take daily commitment. If we don’t do it consistently, the growth of the plant or the fruit tree will be impeded. We might not get the fruit or harvest that we hoped for. In staying committed. We are also demonstrating consistency through our actions.
If we show up consistently be it towards our friends or at work, they not only build our reputation but also reliability and trust from people we know. When you consistently show to your clients that you can produce quality crops, they have a higher tendency to keep calling you for orders.
Protect your baby. These crops are my mom’s baby. When not taken care of, they wither and there are lots more efforts to bring them back to their optimum status. She is there for her plants, regardless of the weather or her life plans.
If you don’t take care of your dreams, you are easily misled by the crops others are growing. And you get distracted from what you need to do to get your crops grow right. Show care and pay attention to your projects, your relationships, your goals, your dreams.
Remove the weeds and bugs. You need to focus on your own plantations. No one else will care for your plants besides you. Weeds may seem not dangerous at first, but they impede the growth of your plantations. Weeds make your vegetation messy and take away all the nutrients that should go to your plants. When a bug appears, one will easily multiply into thousands and chew on your greens if you don’t pay attention.
Similarly, when you don’t stay focused, don’t pay attention and focus on what you need to do to get your dream job, or steps to live your dream life, you are easily affected by the opinions of others; you invite others to divert you from your track, you let them drain your energy. Remove the naysayers and noises from your life.
Be decisive. When your crops are infested with pests, there is nothing you can do but to kill your vegetation. Even if you have to sacrifice your plants that you painstakingly try so hard to nurture.
In order to move forward in life, you have to kill the negative energy or noise (people, or events) affecting you or killing the dream in you. Be decisive in cutting off people who are sucking the energy out of you. Take the right actions to get out of situations that make you dread getting out of bed every day.
Be willing to let go. It’s hard to let go when you have spent all your time and energy nurturing the plantation that ends up having to be uprooted and discarded. But you have to do what you need to do.
It takes the time to let go of unhappy, unfulfilling relationships or situations. But if these are necessary, we have to do them, albeit painful. Then only we can start to rebuild our bed of roses or trees of rambutan.
Dare to invest. Preparing a nurturing environment for a plant to grow well takes more than poking the seed into the ground. We also need to ensure the soil are right for the plant. We also need to plough the land before we plant the seed and replaced regularly for their nutritious qualities. Aside, we also have to ensure that plants are watered daily and located in the right place (no more no less sunlight and heat). This means not only investment in terms of time but also money and resources. Seeds, fertilisers, soils and tools cost money, and also time and human effort.
Be it in our relationships, career or business, we need to be willing to invest our time and energy into them so that they can grow in the best environment we put ourselves in.
Just like bonsai, trim the shoots to let them grow faster. Just when you think you can rest now, do something else that pushes you forward, do more to get out of your comfort zone and be better than who you were yesterday so that you can grow bigger than who you are today.
It is a process, rather than an end point. Farming may seem simple but it is a process that not only requires labour and time but also knowledge. We need to know what plants or fruits grow best in what countries or territories (e,g why we never find apples or strawberries in Asia, or durian in the Europe. Also when and where to water plants, how to grow a cabbage versus long bean or pumpkin, all require extensive study and knowledge).
Technically, after several times a tree has bore fruits, it is time to uproot them and grow new ones from scratch. This is because the nutrients to produce quality fruits from the original seed has worn out. This takes time and effort for the second cycle. But this is a process that we keep doing to keep going.
Be willing to start all over again. When your farm fails, don’t be afraid to restart and try again.
Be it in exams or in business, or even in life, so long as you don’t give up, you will see results from your hard work and trials sooner or later.
Plan and Tweak Your Strategy. There are times of the year that plays a part in the growth of the plants. The ‘tarap’, a local exotic fruit is harvested around the month of September. So the timing, when to start planting the seed, plays a part, as well as when to stop.
In business, we also need to plan our strategy and promotions right for the occasion, be it Christmas or Mid Year Sale. In our career, we also need to plan when to start showing our accomplishments to our bosses, before appraisals.
You are not alone. Chances are that whatever troubles that you experience in the farm at that particular times, other farmers around your area will experience the same situation as you did, or at some point.
No one is ever alone in their journey. We may face different situations in life, but what we go through and came out from, we can share with others facing similar issues.