I arrived today in Munich on the front end of a 3-week speaking trip through Germany, France, Spain, and Australia. I'll see some folks I've worked with in the past and several brand new folks and try to keep you posted along the way. I'm well aware that when I travel, I see things differently.
For sure, most travelers to these countries do not spend all their time with farmers, avoiding all the tourist stops. As usual, I will not go to any regular tourist attractions and will not spend a dime, but I'll meet and enjoy hundreds of farmers and integrity food lovers who promote truth in food and farming, and deal with unique frustrations in their area. I'm sure I'll learn from them and hopefully they'll learn from me.
This is my first time to Germany and France, third time to Spain, and 16th time to Australia. I've threatened to apply for Aussie dual citizenship.
As I was leaving the farm on such a beautiful spring morning, my heart was heavy and I was blinking back tears. Although I do travel, I'm really just a hometown farm boy who loves his animals, his woods and fields, and his team. This is especially difficult because our 2019 intern team starts formally May 1, so they began arrive during the weekend and will be well-seasoned by the time I get home May 23.
While it'll be fun to see them when I get home, I'll miss those early honeymoon weeks, and that's a bummer. The greatest blessing of my life, though, is that I can leave with full confidence that things will carry on perfectly. Teresa will keep depositing checks and writing checks. Daniel will lead day-to-day operations. Sheri will spearhead buying clubs. Eric will orient the new interns and Leanna will handle inventory. Buzz will keep things repaired; Jonathan will keep things greased and humming; Hannah will handle buying club logistics and Wendy will answer the phone, funnel emails, hold down the farm store.
Allan Nation, founder and editor of Stockman Grass Farmer (which I now edit after his untimely death in 2017), and my greatest mentor (except for my dad) always said an entrepreneur should "retire into the business." He made a great distinction with retiring from the business. He never wanted to retire FROM SGF; he wanted to retire INTO it. That's an important distinction. In general, it meant, in his words, he could wake up every day and know he only had to do things he enjoyed. It also meant that in day -to-day operations, he was the most expendable member of the team.
I may not be completely there, but as they say, "I ain't fer from it." Ever since my job description changed to "chief visionary," I've felt like I'm retiring into the business, and that's really fun. Of all the people who keep Polyface humming, I'm the least important, at least on a day-to-day basis. That's incredibly humbling and satisfying. So while I hate to be gone, I don't fret or worry about things at home. And chances are I'll learn some things that will make us better farmers.
In some ways, this is a glorified Mastermind symposium for me, rubbing shoulders with people who know things I don't, who are clever, resourceful, and thriving in a different context. I can think of few things as fun as this. So stay tuned; I'll share with I see and learn as we go along these next three weeks. And it won't be your normal travelogue, I assure you.
What trip taught you more than any other?