Dave Nanda has written articles on this Website and in Indiana Prairie Farmer for years. He helped found Corn Illustrated as a concept, and envisioned what it would take to produce 500-bushel corn some 20 years ago, long before most people were even thinking about 300-bushel corn.
Recently, however, I heard him give a talk and I learned something I didn't know, even though I have worked with Dave for some 25 years. We've become friends along the way.
Nanda grew up in Indiana. I knew that part of the story. He came here to study corn breeding at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1960s. While he originally intended to go back to India and help produce corn for his mother country, he found there were no jobs there. So he began his career here, and stayed here, producing several inbred lines and hybrids for various companies throughout his long career.
The story I hadn't heard, however, may tell me more about my friend Dave and may be more important than anything he has ever taught me about corn production and corn breeding. It goes like this, in his words.
"I was entering about eighth grade, and I didn't know any English at all. To go on in school, I needed to learn English as a second language. I figured it couldn't be that hard, so my parents enrolled me in a class and I figured it would come easy enough.
"It didn't come easy at all. The teacher was very demanding. His own son was in the class, and was usually at the top of the class. I struggled. At the end of the first grading period, I was lowest in the class.
"The tradition then was for the lowest scoring student when grades were announced to stand on a stool for two hours straight, for everyone to see. I was the student standing on the stool, feeling humbled and embarrassed. I resolved right then while I was on the stool that I would never be last again, in this class or at anything. I would work as hard as I had to work to make sure that never happened again.
"The next grading period I came in third. I had my sights on being number one in the class, even better than the teacher's son. Before the class ended, I reached my goal.
"And I've never been last again. I don't tell this story to brag, I tell it to show what motivation can do. Some young people today seem to lack motivation. If you set your mind to it, you can do many things. I hope they all find what motivates them. "
You may raise 250-bushel corn this year, but the lesson of working hard and improving yourself may be more valuable than whatever you receive for the corn.
Thanks for sharing, Dave!