Adversity molds character  (Editorial)

(April 1, 2015) Looking back at the first 30 or so years of American Farm Publications, I find myself marveling at — and indeed proud of — our vitality, our strength of purpose and our ability to overcome adversity.
Let’s talk adversity for a bit.
It is described as “adverse or unfavorable fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distres” or further “a difficult situation or condition.”
Farmers know a lot about those things, particularly in recent years as they battle a burgeoning environmental battle and equally burgeoning laws and regulations which, in effect, dictate how they are permitted to grow the food that feeds us all.
A great deal has been written about adversity.
It took Hervey Allen years and a total of nine volumes to tell his classic story of the travails of his main character, “Anthony Adverse.”
There are two sides to adversity. It can be a curse or a blessing. I wish to add support to the blessing side.
A good friend of mine, Gary Player, of more than 25 years, is a world champion golfer, and he started his career facing great adversity.
He told me one time, “When I say my prayers at night, I don’t thank God for my blessings. I thank God for my adversities. My adversities have given me strength beyond my dreams.”
When he played in the British Open the first time, he had no money for a room. He slept on the golf course at night.
Adversity faced squarely brings out the best in ourselves, provided we don’t panic and develop the worst fear of all, fear of failure.
Many of the success stories in America come from failure, sometimes repeated failure.
One of the greatest stories is about a young boy who never attended a formal school. His mother taught him to read and write and “do sums,” as arithmetic was known in the late 1800s. At age 12, as was a custom of the day, he became what was known as an indentured servant, assigned to a local candy maker. He was to be provided room and board only while he worked to learn the craft of confectioner.
At 18, he was on his own and went to Philadelphia to open his own candy store. It failed. There was still an active movement to the West, so he moved to Denver, Colo., and opened a candy store. And it failed.
On the way back to his boyhood home, he opened a candy store in Chicago. And it failed.
He arrived back in Derry, Pa., his hometown. He was nearly middle-aged and, for all intents and purposes, a broken man, but for some reason, he couldn’t give up.
He started experiments with chocolate — unpalatable up to that time because it was so bitter. He found that mixing chocolate with milk made it palatable.
He started his new venture by standing on street corners selling his chocolate bars. The chocolate bar, he discovered, sold itself.
The company he started never advertised until 1970, long after his death.
Milton Hershey had founded what is today the world’s largest chocolate company.
The principles of how to deal with adversity are evident: Keep focused on the objective needed to resolve the problem, pursue every avenue available, be vigilant and persistent, and never quit.
Adversity wilts in the face of determination.
You — farmers, ag businessmen, anyone involved in agriculture in these opening years of the 21st century — know about adversity.
You face it constantly: Dropping commodity prices, the weather, an army of bureaucrats continue to chip away at your ability to farm for a profit.
Do not, however, give in. Do not quit. Do not throw in the towel.
Adversity breeds strength of character.
It ignites a fire you may not know you have. It energizes the spirit and the body, as it does an athlete in a hard-fought contest.
You have objectives for your farm or your business.
You have goals. Keep your eyes focused on them and a better day will come. It always does.
In agriculture it always has.
Sure, there may be too many lean years in between. We know that at American Farm Publications.
As you go, as agriculture goes, so go we.
Forty years is just the beginning.
That’s our focus. You make it yours, and we’ll get there together. God bless you all.