Recently, we were on vacation. We drove to Dawsonville, GA and back, and stopped in Richmond, VA, Asheville, NC and Staunton, VA along our journey. We drove a sizable chunk of the Blue Ridge Parkway and saw a lot of country along the interstates, US-Highways and State Roads. We passed many farms and properties of varying sizes in various states of upkeep or benign neglect. One thing kept popping into my head as drove along: the people who live in these rural areas, across from pastureland and fields seem to be connected to the earth in way that many of us in our urban and suburban environments are not.
Of course, as a tourist passing through, I project onto the setting but there is something in the agrarian model that is appealing, a set of standards that must be followed in order to achieve success. You plant your crop at a certain time, harvest it at another. Watch for insects, fungi and other controllable pests and hope that the uncontrollable doesn’t come and wipe you out. You follow that rhythm year in and year out and hopefully with vigilance, hard work and some luck you succeed. There is a timelessness to the properties by which we drove, earned of perseverance, and the very probable reality that the farm has passed down through at least a few generations of successful farmers/entrepreneurs.
There is a lesson in this model for all of us in non-agrarian pursuits, I think. We are in the midst of a nasty economic blood-letting. Unlike the summer hale storm that devastates a sorghum crop, however, this nastiness is of our own making. Everybody forgot about following the basic business ingredients of hard work, perseverance and commitment. Instead, everybody chased bonuses built on the performance of shaky derivatives and other exotic investment products that should have given more sober people the yips. Now, nobody knows what is to come on the other side of our current economic issues.
It seems to me that there is a very real chance to remake our economy and the way business is done. This will fall largely on the entrepreneurs and the risk takers currently working to create their own niche and define the future economic reality for themselves, right now. One thing I do know for sure is that in this new future we need to hue to the time-tested examples of hard work, straight dealings, and solid and honest delivery. It’s time to get back to the basics.