Come Along, Don’t Go Along

Today’s post comes from Jim Tjepkma

I had the very good fortune to spend five years working closely with Dick and Sharon Thompson in my job as the coordinator of the Rodale Institute’s Midwest On-Farm Education and Research Network.  The Thompsons were among the nation’s foremost leaders in the development and promotion of sustainable farming.   I meet them soon after Rodale hired me early in 1989.   I was the second coordinator for the Rodale network that had been setup several years earlier.   The network was based on Dick and Sharon’s approach to advancing sustainable farming, which was centered around farmer participation in education and research programs for the development of alternatives to conventional farming methods.

Screenshot 2015-12-09 at 6.47.31 AM

Dick said that he had received a message telling him that his approach to farming should be one of coming along and not going along.   For him this meant that he should question the current farming methods that were very widely used and look for better ways to farm.   He started by trying out some unconventional farming practices he learned about from other farmers who were also questioning the increasingly industrialized approach to farming that most farmers had adopted including heavy use of pesticides and the use of very large machinery.

Under Dick’s “come along, don’t go along” approach, he put together some of the best of the alternative ideas he could find into a system that worked well for him.  Dick had a lot of skill at finding and adopting better farming methods and came up with practices that worked well which were not in line with many of the practices recommended by universities.

He decided that he needed to demonstrate that his methods were as good or better than the ones the universities promoted by setting up scientifically designed research plots comparing his practices to theirs.  His research plots became a central part of large field days that he and Sharon hosted and he also taught other famers, included those in the Rodale network, how to do their own research.

Dick was a featured speaker at many farm meetings and usually participated in these meeting with Sharon at his side to let everyone know that she was an important part the work he did.   He also encouraged other farmers to come forward as speakers and as educators as well as encouraging them to engage in research.

I think Dick and Sharon’s approach of “coming along not going along” sets a good example for all of us.  In fact I think his approach is basically what a good citizenship should do.  We should not automatically accept what we are told by authorities and we should be actively engaged in creating a better world.

Who do you know who has influenced you by setting a good example?

26 thoughts on “Come Along, Don’t Go Along”

  1. Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Schweitzer, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jimmy Carter…. all folks who did what they needed to do, even if it made their lives difficult or dangerous.

    My dad was very influential. His liberal stance, abhorrence of violence, stand against censorship. And my mom – about the kindest person I know. (And she’s coming on Wednesday!)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. All those Danish church ladies.

    They surely worked from dawn to dusk, but they always had coffee and cookies to offer and pitched in to make their community a more civilised place to live

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Over Thanksgiving I heard a new story about my maternal German grandmother. There aren’t many, so I treasure up what I get.

    Seems during the Armistice Day Blizzard a number of people were stranded in town and in that small town every bed was pretty much occupied. My grandfather let the school store there buses in his repair garage and people were invited to spend the night there and my grandmother saw to it they were fed, cooking big kettles of oatmeal the next morning, as my mother remembers it.

    I find the stories of generosity and industry of these women inspiring and a little bit humbling.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. My boss on ‘the boat’ (AKA the S/S William A. Irvin in Duluth). The only good manager of people I’ve ever worked with and one of the smartest, kindest, most compassionate, and hardest working human beings I’ve ever known. Hats off to Cap’n Darcy.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. It has been my great fortune to have two amazing men as mentors, both wildlife biologists.

    Art Hawkins was closer to being a saint than any man I’ve known. He had boundless affection for wildlife, gaining special fame for his work to help wood ducks. Art was a student and close friend of Aldo Leopold. I feel honored to think he was also my friend, and I can’t begin to list all the things he taught me.

    My other mentor, still very much alive, is Dave Mech, the man who has done more to restore wolves than any other single person. Dave is often called “the world’s foremost wolf researcher,” and he unquestionably deserves that title. He, like Art, is also a warm and loving human being who has worked all his adult life to help the natural world. Dave even taught me to respect science, which is one of the improbable of his many accomplishments.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi–

    Into my week of Christmas concerts here at the college.

    I’ve had several theater mentors. Way back when there was Thom. He taught me if you’re going to do it, do it right. “Don’t half-ass it!”
    I keep that one in mind even if I don’t always get it right.
    And Gary has pushed me outside my mental boundaries and to look at things different and try new things.

    My dad; he taught me so much and was such a good example of how to treat people.
    And Mom is still teaching me how to push for what you want but also how to know when you have to just let it go and trust that “It will be fine”.

    Thanks for your work Jim.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My Dad taught me to stick the bare ends of wires into an outlet (in place of a plug) just to test if something worked. I think that started me in lighting.
      (It can too be done safely! And I’ve done it many times since.) 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh, my mom, my aunts, the church ladies (most of them Norwegian), various colleagues, native friends.a few professors. Thanks, Jim. It is nice to think about positive things.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I could name many, but today will remember my grandmother. She was a quiet Norwegian church lady (see references above) – she served coffee for weddings and funerals, baked bars, sang in the choir, and doled out Jell-o with an assortment of things floating in it. She also taught junior high English at Phillips Jr High in the turbulent years of the late 1960s. She fretted and fussed about her students and how little they had. But her real mettle showed years after that. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and by then she was long since retired and living in an apartment complex for senior citizens. Along with the stuff that is often part of that milieu (bus rides to the grocery store, dinner in the common dining room, etc.), there was a regular day to gather for coffee and pie. Story goes that she was down having her pie and overheard a couple of men at the next table carrying on about AIDS and how “the gays” deserved to get it. Oh…oh no no no. Not something to say within earshot of my grandma it seems. Not that day. She stood up and walked over to that table and told those men in no uncertain terms – no doubt in her best, “I’m so disappointed in you” teacher voice – that no one deserved to die that way, no one. Everyone deserved respect, not a horrible disease. Think she also told them that they had ruined her pie. And off she stalked. I can only imagine the silence in her tiny Norwegian Lutheran wake. She was not a political or outspoken woman. But there was this undercurrent of helping where and how she could and accepting and respecting everyone, no matter what. So speak up for those who aren’t able. If my quiet Norwegian Lutheran grandma who knitted and made lefse can, so can you.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. One of my most favorite mentors is Barbara McAfee, who I worked with at that small consulting firm in the 90s. Not only is she a super consultant/counselor, author, and voice coach. She is an accomplished singer-songwriter who has a gig with Claudia Schmidt this Sunday:
    “No holly jolly here!
    Just an improvised journey of song, poetry,
    community singing, and story
    celebrating the gifts of the dark.”
    Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
    Second floor art gallery
    Sunday December 13 7:00 pm
    511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis
    Tickets at the door: $8 to $25 sliding scale (you decide what to pay and why)”

    She seems to be fearless, and has taught me to go bravely into places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Quiet day on the trail. I think all the baboons are out being good role models. I wonder how many baboons were told they had to be good role models for younger siblings?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I volunteered for the 1996 and 2002 Wellstone campaigns. I wish there were more people like Paul Wellstone in politics today. He had strong liberal convictions, but also managed to respect people with differing opinions. A more genuinely honest, forthright and caring person never lived.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I’m having a hard time singling out a single person. There are some character traits that I value highly, and the people I admire and see as role models are people who display those characteristics.

    Generosity of spirit, kindness, and unwavering commitment to ethical behavior are some of the traits I value most highly. Chad Q., one of the lawyers from my former law firm, is right at the head of the list. He is a thoughtful man who always considers what is the right thing to do. His sense of morality, however, is based on Christian beliefs and practices, and I sometimes find myself at odds with him. It has forced me to look closely at my reasoning. Chad taught me a lot, and I still admire him greatly even though I don’t always agree with him.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. The Thompsons were very close to being organic farmers. They choose not to become certified organic farmers because they wanted to show they could be profitable without getting the added premium that is available to certified organic farmers.

    The conventional farmers that lived near the Thompsons usually didn’t come to their field days. However, I learned from an extension agent that worked in their county that those farmers were watching the way the Thompson’s farmed and did noticed the good farming practices that they used.

    Liked by 3 people

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