I thought I had worked through all my insecurities when I primed myself up to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship. It took me several months of thought and internal debate. Months of trying on the idea of travel and time away from the farm. It was the inspiration for my solo bike trip to the Maggies, proving to myself that I could do scary things. I filled several pages of a couple journals, working out all kinks in my confidence, convincing myself that I was worthy, clever enough, experienced and not just doing it to prove to everyone, but especially me, that I am a legitimate farmer.
That was 2022, 2023. Yet here I am in the early days of 2024, making real travel plans to places where I'll be sitting down with folks who might ask me questions that I probably should know the answers to and I'd rather crawl under a nice wide tree canopy and stay there.
As a young woman, in the final days of waiting for my first baby to arrive, for some reason I became fixated on having enough receiving blankets, those soft flannel, rectangular burp catchers and baby wrappers. My recurring nightmare in those last days was coming home from the hospital to not having any receiving blankets. Laughable even then, in the tornado of hormones and insecurities.
And now, in the final days of making plans, spending money, booking flights, finalizing connections here I am, worried about not knowing the answers to questions like :
PEI's average annual rainfall, our farm's soil type, the variety of clover in my pasture mix, seeding rates for everything, the number on the side of our grain drill, how many horsepower our tractors are, the current price for beef on the commodity market, average yield for grain corn in the Maritimes, going price per bushel for every crop, organic acres on PEI, and on and on.
The kind of easy, friendly chatter that creates a comfortable bond, a reciprocal sort of agreement between farmers that we're all in this together. But I don't know those things, not off hand. I'm not great at farmer small talk at all. I could easily find the answer to all those things in a matter of minutes, mostly by mining the mind of my very legitimate farmer husband. He sits comfortably in a room of farmers, able to chit chat with any of them.
And yet, I know both of us would claim I'm the people person. But farmers aren't regular people are they? They carry a library of facts that they've built over generations of working with the elements and they carry a certain reverence for those in the same boat, and a very quiet surprise that there are those who don't carry the same library.
I know by the time this is over, those questions will feel as silly as a deficiency of receiving blankets but right now I'm entirely caught up in the minutiae of human relations at a farm level. I thought maybe putting this out in the world, it would help get it out of my mind and set me free, but maybe writing down just a few of those questions that so many farmers just unconsciously learned as barefooted kids only highlighted my foolishness. What am I doing on this adventure? How did I think having the Nuffield name to open doors would also lend me credibility when it comes to relating as farmer to farmer over a kitchen table? They'll see through me so fast, know that I love cattle, but don't understand the cost of production like I should, don't appreciate the depth of the current reliance on synthetic fertilizer in our globalized food system, don't know the first thing about equipment maintenance, am as debt-averse as it comes, am often confused by the lingo at annual accountants meetings, etc.
How did I fool Nuffield Canada so thoroughly that I'm at this point in the game?
And don't worry, I know I've got lots going for me, and that these things won't matter that much. It's more of a sign of this becoming real, this hyper fixation on foolish, irrelevant things.
Mostly I'm posting this so that future scholars who get themselves to this point, can see that they're not the only ones. And for me, to read later on and remind myself how far I've come. I'll probably never remember the model number of every (any?) tractor we own, but I can talk to anyone and my Mom always said I've got the kind of smiling face that makes people feel comfortable, so I'll just rely on that I guess? *laughing/crying/mostly laughing I think*
Quite a post for my first Nuffield one eh?? Inspired to follow along or WHAT!? :)