Walking In Your Shoes

Walking In Your Shoes from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

Like you, I’ve been busy planting, too.  Those RD trials won’t plant themselves, so I’ve been out enjoying some rare time with Eleanor.  (Which is my planter, named affectionately after the Mustang in Gone In 60 Seconds, remember?)

And I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve really had to stop and think—hard—about even simple adjustments.  There have even been times when, dare I admit, I’ve made a few mistakes.

Now, I could chalk this up to my spending relatively little time in the cab of a planter, but that would be oversimplifying what I suspect is the real issue, which is that while planters make a whole lot of sense conceptually, they’re much different in practice.

It’s kind of like parenting.  The concept of parenting seems quite easy and Walton-esque.  The actual practice of parenting is anything but and much more like an episode of the Simpsons.

It’s been a reality check of sorts.  I imagine that you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, duh,” and that’s okay.  Maybe there’s more learning in this for me than you, but very importantly, friends, I want you to know that I feel your pain.

For starters, I often ask you to do things that are conceptually simple but difficult to execute.

Take downforce, for example: a grower called me while I was out with Eleanor and asked how much downforce to use.  The answer as it plays in my head makes a ton of sense: find the gauge wheel load that provides the most consistent seed spacing and depth.  Accomplishing this indicates that you’re controlling bounce as much as possible.  And there’s your downforce.  Easy peasy.  Until I took up the same task in the field.  Making field to field comparisons is like comparing apples to axel grease.  And what if the soil is funky?  Or what if I’m pushing my planter to its limits?  These change the equation and the simple answer becomes not so simple at all.


Secondly, the problem is harder when it’s yours.

I answer other people’s problems all day long.  When it’s somebody else’s problem, I do a good job of staying rational and cool.  When the problem is mine though?  Hoo boy.  On one recent day, I couldn’t get my starter to work right and instead of being rational and cool, I went into freak out mode.  I mean, I NEEDED TO PLANT.  NOW.  NOW I SAID.  So while the problem was a simple pinched wire, it took a call to the ACS equipment team to fix it because I was losing my mind.

Thirdly, it’s almost impossible not to break the rules.  Like all the time.

This is the toughest to say: last week, I, Mike Zwingman, planted into not-totally-perfect soil.  It was, let’s say, 85% perfect.  Not bad, but less perfect than what I would tell you to plant in.  I did it because I needed to get something done before it rained.

I like to think that I have a good, healthy dose of perspective that I also manage to bring into any situation that I encounter.  But it’s clear that the more task-oriented I became, the less perspective I cared to muster.  And when the problems were mine, emotion replaced perspective alarmingly fast.

Field work is important, high-stress work with endless distractions.  Sometimes when I write about it, I make it sound easy.  It isn’t.  You’re out there making big decisions based on often incomplete information and a comfort with risk that certainly varies by situation.  It’s tough work, but I’m glad you’re doing it.

And even though it’s making me feel like a schmoe, I’m glad I get the opportunity to do it too, because it makes me better at helping you.