Author and inspirational speaker John Maxwell once said, “The greatest enemy of learning is knowing.”
This couldn’t be more accurate than when it comes to sustainable farming practices. But truth be told, most of the problems we as humans face today (on and off the farm) aren’t due to our lack of knowledge, but to our certainty of it!
Two contractors don’t fight over dissimilar work philosophies unless both of them “know” the way to do the job.
A political party doesn’t oppose another unless it “knows” (and it always does…) the right direction for our nation.
And many of us fail to properly assess opposing farming techniques because, after all, we KNOW which ones work, and we KNOW which one’s don’t..
But at Merit or Myth, we’re here to ask… do we, really?
South Dakota farmer Monty Williams wouldn’t say he “knows” much. After all, by his own admission, he’s no agronomist. He claims to not even be much of a “soils guy”.
But what Monty (may believe) he lacks in conventional “knowing”, he more than makes up for with his desire to learn!
It’s this attitude that has lead to Monty’s biggest breakthroughs on his ranch in Pennington County, South Dakota. From converting to no-till 20 years ago to increasing planting depth, Monty is a farming trailblazer – never satisfied with conventional knowledge unless it’s first put to the test. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth-planting. Monty knows first-hand the struggles that come with farming.
The potential avenues for learning today are astounding. After all, we each carry the entirety of all human knowledge within a roughly 6” x 3” device that we carry in our pockets (thank you, Internet)!
Monty Williams has done his fair share of browsing when it comes to farming practices. But his primary source of learning is much closer to home… and usually the “competition”.
I have to study everybody. When I drive down the road… well look at this crop, what’s he doing over here. Well that’s a good idea, maybe we ought to incorporate that. You have to not just stare at what you’re doing, but look around.”
The ability to learn from our peers is one that takes grace and humility. What’s more, with constant access to the internet, it’s often easy to forget that one of the greatest sources for learning is just a door down. But, as Monty puts it, it’s not just about the individual farmer learning to improve his yields – it’s about the collective:
We have to make these changes ourselves. And like I say, that mindset is a tough thing to get over, it’s a tough hurdle. Same thing with my grandpa,(he was) always summer fallow, winter wheat. Couldn’t change off of those things. We can’t do what they were doing, we’ve gotta be moving forward.”
The key word to us in this quote has nothing to do with farming practices, but is all in the two-letter noun “we”. As farmers, we’re always greater than the sum of our parts. And we, our families, and our futures would all benefit from working together, helping each other, and learning side-by-side.
After all, we’ve made great strides as a species directly through our ability to learn. But none of us have learned very much of anything if we still think we know it all.
Join the revolution,