The Farm

This was first published in the NHRDN Journal. 2013

We meet after several years. We were in school together. We bump into each other. In some time, we are sipping coffee. Catching up on the lost years that have quietly slipped by. He tells me he is a farmer and quickly asks, “What do you do?”

I answer slowly. “Learning & development”. I pause. “A variety of programs for developing leaders, capability building, preparing the organisation for future challenges…” My voice trails.

He quips, “I live in a different world. Plants, livestock and land”

We sip our coffee. I notice, he sips it with a certain care. Savouring each sip. I speak gingerly. “I know you put it simply. There is a lot that must go into farming”.

“We begin with a piece of land”. His voice oozes confidence. “Decide what crops to grow when. Each crop has its own cycle”


I am all ears.

“I plough the field. I need to get it ready for the seeds to germinate. I can’t plant the right seed on an unprepared surface you see”.
“And then, there are choices to be made. The season. The land. The water. All will determine what I plant. I have suffered both with the wrong seed for the right land and the right seed at the wrong time, with my eye on what the merchant will give me”

The striking similarities in his work and mine perk my ear. I warm up. “That’s a big decision. But who tells a farmer what is the right thing to do for his land?” He places the coffee cup on the table, soaks in some air, and says quietly, “If the farmer doesn’t know his land and the seasons, he isn’t a true farmer.”

My mind runs back to office and to the leaders we deal with. The leaders and managers who are self aware and own their development are the ones who go a long distance.

I look at him for more. He continues.

“Mother Nature keeps it simple. But, you can’t just plant the seed and wait for Mother Nature to do the rest. You need to know when to water and how much water. Too much water can kill too! “

“So is the case with fertilizer. So is the case with pesticide. Just the right dose. At the right time. In the right sequence. And that is very different for different plants in different soil. Just because something works well with the rice crop, it doesn’t mean it will with millets. We need to find the right mix. In fact, every farmer needs to”

I smile. And say, “So, it’s a question of finding the blend? Right?”

He smiles. “Finding the right blend EVERY SINGLE TIME! A true farmer nurtures. He nurtures by walking the fields. He nurtures by talking to his crop. He nurtures by just doing the right thing and not over doing it”

“So how successful are you in growing your crops?” I ask.  He laughs. “I don’t grow the crops. The crops grow by themselves. I am just there”.
I realise “I am just there’ conceals as much as it reveals. Yet it sinks in clean. The elegance of his description makes me wonder how we miss the most obvious in the quest of the ‘New / Shiny / Fancy’!

“A good farmer is patient. To him, who sows the right seed in the right soil and does just that much to nurture and watch them grow, a good yield is a given”.

That night I stare into the skies. And his words keep coming back to my mind. “I don’t grow the crops. The crops grow by themselves. I am just there”.

I want to write that down and put it on my desk. Perhaps pass it on to our leaders and managers. Development is nature’s way of ensuring all is well. And oh yes, true development is a natural process.


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