A young farmer's guide to life - learning the law of the harvest

Real Estate Agent with Utah Homes 9334967-SA00

Shovel by Viva Tung

It was another Saturday wasted... that was the sentiment, my brother and I had as we woke up just past sunrise.

This Saturday would be ground prep. We'd clear the deepest portion of the back yard of any debris and then start shoveling away the grass and weeds. Later in the day we'd create furrows and, if time permitted, start the planting.

While others were off playing football, baseball, basketball or any other pick-up game that could be had in the neighborhood, we would be toiling in the soil. Two child laborers- slaves to a dad who insisted we experience the things he had. That would be unlikely. He was born on an expansive farm. We just had the backyard. But... he had a tractor. We had hand tools. I tried to discern who had it harder... but it was a pointless exercise.

Turns out farming was hard work. He farmed because he had to. We farmed because he wanted us to. We were sure the authorities would be on our side if we dared report him.

Such was the life of the young farmer. My brother and I had been unwilling students to a head master who was wanting to instruct us on "big picture" items. When we asked why it was that we were out there planting crops in the backyard when such items could be had for a very low price from the grocery store, our father said he was teaching us the law of the harvest. This was a concept so huge I didn't even bother looking it up in the dictionary.

Clearly the lesson was lost on us. We just saw lost play time and blisters... or crops lost to rabbits- the sun and the occaisional rain that turned our furrows to slop.

We planted things that didn't exactly place high on the tasty list. Things like cucumbers, squash, radishes, tomatoes and green beans. We did, however, convince our dad to let us branch out. We included corn, lettuce and (while he wasn't looking) a pack of watermelon seeds into the mix for the year two garden.

Though we never really cozied up to the idea of gardening- we figured we may as well grow stuff that we wouldn't have to hold our noses to eat.

So- each Saturday we'd shovel and cultivate and weed and wait.

Then the amazing would happen. We would see the seeds sprout... and then burst into a sight to behold.

That little garden of ours produced more vegetables than we could consume. It gave mom an idea to take our tutelage to the next level. If dad could teach us the law of the harvest- mom could teach us how it applied to commerce. She said we could earn money by selling the veggies. We were skeptical- but we saw there was no convincing her otherwise.

We loaded up a baby buggy with items we detested most. And we priced them low enough to ensure we could return home with nothing but a box of coins and dollar bills. We'd wheel the baby buggy from house to house- people would answer the door with curiosity. They'd be expecting to look at a baby... instead, beneath the protective overhang they'd see squash and cucumbers... items that could be theirs for five cents each.

Surprisingly the plan worked. It took little time sell the inventory.

If dad had taught us how to work, mom had taught us how to benefit monetarily.

We grew to not only enjoy the harvest... we discovered that a salad made entirely from our hard work- combined with nature doing what it does, produced flavors that could not be matched by any restaurant. And... when a new movie hit the local theater- we learned that popcorn tasted better when you paid from your own pocket.

I've thought of this experience many times over the years... and more recently now than ever.

We live in a time when food comes in a package. We can pick it up at a drive through... or pop it frozen into a microwave. If the evolutionary scale of food consumption could be charted we could see the early stages- hunting and gathering; followed by the next path- planting and harvest... then lead to where we are now- processing and marketing. Many of us understand step three far better than we do steps one and two. In every business we are now learning that it takes harder work... more pre-planning and better cultivating to reap a good harvest.

Looking back on that time I see that my parents had done a good thing. We *had* learned the law of the harvest. We reaped what we had sown... more plainly- our labors were rewarded in abundance.

Photo Credit: "Shovel" by Viva Tung


When not reflecting on his childhood, Chuck Willman can be found helping match buyers and sellers in Arizona real estate. www.AZvest.com

Comments (35)

Emmett Bozard
House Hunter Realty The Palmetto Group - Orangeburg, SC

Chuck, I grew up on a farm in South Carolina. My poor 2 sisters, had it harder than I, but we had it hard working in the fields while the city kids played. ERRRRRR made us soooooo mad, but what was instilled in me was the work ethic. Real Estate is alot like farming, you prepare the soil but with schooling, you sow the seeds by advertising, you cultivate by showing properties, you harvest by closing. Thanks Chuck, i need to go and call my parents now, THANKS !

come and visit us www.PalmettoAgents.com

Feb 22, 2009 05:28 AM
Debi Ernst
St. Charles County, Missouri - Prudential Alliance Realtors - O'Fallon, MO
GRI, e-PRO, Broker/Sales Associate

Chuck - You learned a valuable lesson that will be with you your entire life.  You sound like you had great parents!  :)

Feb 22, 2009 05:49 AM
Barbara Delaney
Park Place REALTORS, Inc. - Roanoke, VA

Dear Chuck,

What a valuable lesson! My mother has always been an incredible gardener. Mostly flowers, but she also loves fruit trees and herbs.

When I was a child she encouraged me to plant a peach pit in our backyard, My friends all said that it would never grow!

I tended it daily and finally would up with a 3 ft tall tree! We moved before it ever bore fruit.

Thanks for bringing back a fond memory!


Feb 22, 2009 06:38 AM
Kathie Burby
Coldwell Banker Mother Lode Real Estate - Sonora, CA
REALTOR, SFR, Tuolumne County Real Estate Guide

Chuck - Great post. Thanks for reminding us the value of hard work and perseverance. It does pay off! Great story - it brought back memories of my childhood peddling the pears and apples from our trees with my sister and a little red wagon. We priced them 3 for a nickel and often were invited to partake in the pies that were made from our fruit.

Feb 22, 2009 07:26 AM
R.E. Renée Hoover, Salesperson
Century 21 Geba Realty, Milford, PA; Licensed in PA & NYS - Milford, PA
Poconos, Pike, Wayne, Monroe Counties, PA; PA/NYS

Chuck, a sensational post on so many levels.  The phrase "law of the harvest" is new to me - and one that I will now not forget.  Reminds me of my daughter-in-law in Kentucky who has joined together with her neighborhood, obtained a large piece of land for their use from a Catholic convent (where the movie Rainman was filmed), and they garden together - the neighborhood families, and their children.  That whole enterprise has so warmed my heart, as does your story.  Thank you for bringing this story to us.


P.S. Use to live in Tucson - I sure love Arizona and those fabulous sunsets!


Feb 22, 2009 07:40 AM
Ron Parise
LocateHomes.com - Cape Coral, FL

If you havent done it yet this week, do it now, ..... Call Mom and Dad and thank them....sounds like they raised some great kids

Feb 22, 2009 08:41 AM
Mara Hawks
First Realty Auburn - Auburn, AL
Inactive-2012 REALTOR - Homes for Sale Auburn Real Estate, AL

Well this explains a lot of your down-to-earthness soul! I love your storytelling here, and with a very applicable message for today in so many ways. I worry that many young people today are not making the food connection with the earth that is their home, but with the drive-through, fast food chains and grocery stores that have no aromas of food except an occasional bakery...It seems to increase the disconnect people experience in their bodies...There is much wisdom to be gained in planting a seed and watching it grow...and you harvested an abundance, Chuck! Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories.

Feb 22, 2009 09:45 AM
Shirley Parks
Sands Realty 210-414-0966 - San Antonio, TX
Broker, 210-414-0966, San Antonio TX Real Estate

Hi Chuck, This was an inspiring post.  I grew up on a 100 acre "farm" and although there wasn't a lot of actual farming, we always had a huge garden.  This post brought back a lot of memories... you are right about the wonderful flavor of fresh food.

Feb 22, 2009 10:01 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Chuck, What beautiful and very true lessons for ALL of us.  We do reap the rewards of hard work, even if it's not exactly on our timetable.  It's funny some of the things we learned at a young age we didn't really understand until we got older--and now we pass them along.  Great story!

Feb 22, 2009 11:02 AM
John Walters
Frank Rubi Real Estate - Slidell, LA
Licensed in Louisiana

Chuck thanks for the comment on my first blog.  I have improved but not to your speed.  I just never did have the journalism part down.  Ask my high school teachers.

Feb 22, 2009 11:10 AM
Debbie Summers
Charles Rutenberg Realty - New Smyrna Beach, FL

Chuck - As always you provide us not only with a lesson but a truly inspiring post. 

I aspire to write half as well as you do!

Feb 22, 2009 11:23 AM
Bruce Brockmeier
Internet Marketing Consultant to REALTORS® - Yorba Linda, CA
Coached By Crouch

So- each Saturday we'd shovel and cultivate and weed and wait.

Then the amazing would happen. We would see the seeds sprout... and then burst into a sight to behold.

Hey Chuck,

What a great life lesson!  Now you are planting seeds on ActiveRain.  :)

Feb 22, 2009 11:28 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Chuck that is so profound.  Sowing and harvest applies to so many things in a real estate business: the time we "plant" our relationship with others, and the results thereof; teaching our children wisely (or not) about finances and then watching the "harvest" of the next generation; and also NOW the fact that many families will be moving to farms in order to become self-sufficient and endure our current economy.  All around:  GREAT lessons.  You have the BEST parents!

Join my new AR group and post your blog at http://activerain.com/groups/virtualoffice

Regina P. Brown

Feb 22, 2009 11:30 AM
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Chuck, this is a wonderful story. I enjoyed reading it as I so appreciate the Laws of the Harvest and how they effect our lives. Nothing like seeing how big things come from small things we plant in our lives.

Feb 22, 2009 01:49 PM
Bo Kociuba
McGraw Realtors - Mustang, OK
Realtor - Mustang, Yukon & OKC Metro 405-812-1572

Chuck - what a nice story to share. Isn't it amazing that our parents are not so smart when we are young, however, the 'transformation to smartness' occures when we become adults...I guess this must be part of the law of life...I remember my Mama wasn't right plenty of times when I was a teenager but you know with my years advancement I have been quoting her lots of times!

With smiles,


Feb 22, 2009 02:01 PM
Susie Blackmon
Ocala, FL
Ocala, Horses, Western Wear, Horse Farms, Marketing

Ooooh, love your 'feel good' stories and renditions of your lessons in life. Sometimes I feel like a weed.


Feb 22, 2009 07:46 PM
Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

Gary- One thing I didn’t mention was this… I also learned from this experience that vegetables are actually very tasty… even those I couldn’t stand way back when.

Laura- I saw something recently… seed sales are up! In other words, more people are beginning to plant, what some call it, “money gardens.” One seed company, I can’t remember which, was advertising that their $10 pack could produce $650 worth of vegetables.

Li- I’m glad you enjoyed it… it’s always nice to feel like you’ve maybe connected on a post or two.

Lee & Carol- I’m the same way. I’ve planted a few trees and love to drive back and see them. I know I did little more than plant and care for it in the early days… to see how prominent they have become makes me beam.

Betina- Yes… my parents did well to ignore our belly-aching. It was a valuable lesson that we could have learned no other way.

Vicki- We were and continue to be benefited by such wonderful parents. I think they knew what they were doing to an extent that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Pat- I love your last name! It’s so true… why is it that so many of life’s most valuable lessons come to us so unwillingly? It’s nice that I was made to earn this one.

Kristina- I see that you already have a plan to offer your kids the same opportunities. That’s great… it’s way too easy to take the easy route as parents… and coddle our kids and give in to whining. It’s not easy to teach kids how to work. However… we’re doing them a tremendous favor. When they grow up they’ll see that we succeed, in large part, on our own merits.

Dawn- The baby buggy idea was more out of necessity. We didn’t want the sun on the merchandise… it did, however, create quite a bit of interest in the merchandise.

Gwenn- Too true! I was on the same clue train for quite some time… by the time I was headed to college I was able to see my parent’s tactics in a new light.

Feb 23, 2009 08:06 AM
Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

Lisa- I noticed that gardening is very big in Utah. In my visits I’ve discovered these two treats- namely

1) sweet corn that can be consumed uncooked and directly from the cob… not all corn can pass this test.

2) Peaches that cannot be described… only experienced. When they hit the Arizona stores they are gone in an instant.

Nancy- I had no idea of the timeliness… now I see it was a happy accident.

Kay- We have a few “u-pick-it” places here. The kids love being able to choose from the variety. It’s a great activity and the taste difference is noticeable.

Karen- When you’re digging up the yard it’s just one of those things… it feels like the benefit is so far out there that you wonder why it would be worth the work. Then… when there is so much to be picked you can see how much can be produced in that little plot of land. It’s something great that every gardener has discovered.

Chris- I’m going to look for “In Defense of Food”… do you recall the name of the other one?

Emmett- Real estate if very much like farming… where in South Carolina was your farm? I lived in Charleston for a while and absolutely loved it there.

Debi- Yes… I do have outstanding parents… I could fill a book with all the things they’ve taught me… well… I’ve certainly blogged enough about them … perhaps I should just copy and paste these posts and see how close I am to book stage.

Barbara- We planted an orange tree when my second daughter was born. On her eighth birthday it had produced a single orange… it was so symbolic that she didn’t dare eat it. She has the dried up orange in her collection of cherished keepsakes.

Kathie- I’m a big fan of pie… I’d gladly furnish the contents for anyone who would like to take them to the next level.

Renee- There are a few farms near where I live that are run, in large part, by volunteers. I’ve been able to revisit some of my youth by going there and picking corn and apples and a variety of others. My kids enjoy this activity as well. BTW… I totally agree about the sunsets!

Ron- I’ll do that!

Feb 23, 2009 08:30 AM
Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

Mara- Well it didn’t come without a price tag… but, as they say, it was very well worth it. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Shirley- Your farm far exceeded my little patch of land… though ours felt like a 100 acres at times.

Carole- I wish I could have seen all of these perceived hardships for the valuable opportunities that they were. Now… to figure out how to pass this on to the rest of my posterity.

John- Well… high school teachers’ opinions no longer apply now, do they? I think they’d be proud.

Debbie- I can attest to this much… writing half as well as I do is impossible… AND… in your case is not even slightly accurate. (I must uphold the truth… your posts are awesome.)

Bruce- Hey… when you highlight it like that it makes me almost feel like I’m sometimes quote worthy. Thanks!

Regina- I didn’t realize at the time that “farming” would be my occupation no matter what I chose.

Missy- I think often about how many times I’ve applied this experience. First I did it with school work. Next with the various jobs I’ve had. Finally- with parenting. Yes… my parents did me a big favor.

Bo- It’s one of the very true affirmations… our parents *do* get smarter with age.

Susie- Hah! If you were a weed I’d leave you alone… especially if you could take care of the squash… we grew too much of that for my liking. :-)

Feb 23, 2009 08:45 AM
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate

Hey, Chuck. That is a wonderful flashback. It sounds like you and your brother are extremely lucky. Thanks for sharing, Jim

Feb 24, 2009 05:30 AM