Whenever my sibling and I complained about the mundane, hard work of farm life, my dad would hit us with his favorite mantra: “It builds character.” I’ve heard this my entire life. But there are three experiences that have stuck with me over the years:
1. The sun pounding down on my face and blisters forming on my hands. There was a summer in my childhood when my dad decided that we would not purchase herbicides for our soybean fields. Instead, he had the brilliant plan to pull the weeds by hand. We spent long, grueling hours underneath the heat of the sun. Every single morning, we would walk back to the field with the intention of working nonstop until evening.
In those moments, I hated the long hours and boring work. But according to my dad, pulling weeds from a soybean field was “character building.” And he was right. Because those long hours would continue throughout the rest of my life. I would have to dedicate long hours to becoming successful in school, FFA and sports. Long hours within agriculture builds character.
2. Muck flying everywhere and the pressure washer pushing back against my hand. As a child, I was the only one small enough to fit inside our broken liquid manure tank. So, to clean it, I shimmied in with pressure washer in hand. As one could imagine, I emerged covered in muck and manure. I despised the experience. But according to my dad, cleaning a liquid manure tank was “character building.”
For it is those that do the work unwanted that are successful. To be honest, there are so many aspects of life that are less than appealing. Embracing those moments and working through them defines who we are. Grueling experiences within agriculture build character.
3. Sweat pouring down my brow and my arms heavy. I have spent my fair share of time moving hundreds of bushels of corn while cleaning the insides of grain bins. While it may have been fun as a child to slide down the corn mountains, it was less so once I became old enough to help. I hated how strenuous the work became. But according to my dad, cleaning out a grain bin was “character building.”
He was right again. There are moments in our lives when we do not want to put in the hard work. But it is the hard work that creates successful people. It is going the extra mile that creates generations of success. Hard work within agriculture builds character.
It builds character: the long hours, the grueling experiences, the hard work. I heard these words countless times from my father throughout the years. And it wasn’t until recently that I finally began to appreciate those three simple words.
I’ve realized that my character growth can be dedicated to the long hours, grueling experiences and hard work within agriculture. Simply put, agriculture builds character. Agriculture builds successful people.
Neuman is the 2021-22 Indiana FFA state secretary. He hails from the Rushville FFA Chapter, and writes from his “home away from home” at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center near Trafalgar, Ind.