One day Farmer Fred heard a voice loudly hailing him from the road. He went down the lane to his main gate and met a nice man, a friendly man, who introduced himself as Shortcut Sam and then wasted no time in saying what was on his mind.
“Farmer Fred, I’ve heard a lot about your farm. You’ve been at it for a good long while. But I think I could really help to streamline your operation so you could get a lot more bang for your buck, if you know what I mean.”
Farmer Fred was a little wary of the man’s introduction, especially after Big Bob and Ralph the Reaper; nevertheless, he decided to give this new man a chance to say what he came to say. “I’m listening,” said Farmer Fred.
“Well, it’s like this. Your approach is too complicated. I’ve been watching how you do things. It seems like you put an awful lot of time into pointless labor. For example, you choose a field, then you put a bunch of time into clearing it. After it’s cleared you spend a good long while turning over the dirt with your plow. After you’ve plowed, you plant, and then the work really starts. I’ve seen you spend hours and hours out in your fields irrigating them, pulling up weeds, and chasing away crows and critters. Then after all that work, after weeks and weeks of working dawn ’til dusk, the crop fails! Don’t you see it, man? You’re spending too much time on crops that fail.”
“There is no doubt about it, I have poured a lot of time over the years into crops that failed,” replied a somber Farmer Fred.
“That’s right! You see, the way I farm, I don’t waste time on failed crops. I only want to work with the best, the strongest, the most vivacious of crops.”
“But how do you do that?” asked Farmer Fred sincerely.
“The key is, you have to be shrewd! Hey, we’re not trying to find the most difficult path to success, right? There’s always a better, smarter, more efficient, more streamlined way to do anything.”
“You mean a shortcut?”
Shortcut Sam grinned. “Now you’re getting it.”
“To be shrewd means you only work in fields that have a high probability of success. I don’t fiddle around clearing, plowing, and planting seeds that aren’t too likely to yield a good crop. You have to kind of hang back at first. Don’t rush right into anything. The field may turn out to be a loser. Don’t commit your time, your effort, or your resources until you are sure you have the best.”
By this time Farmer Fred was scratching his head. “I’m totally lost now. The way I’ve always understood farming to work, there is a process that is required. When we clear a field, plow a field, plant a field, water a field, and chase birds from a field, we have no way of knowing the outcome of that crop ahead of time. Seems to me that farming requires risk-taking. And taking a risk means investing yourself in something that might fail. After we have done all we can do, the crop may indeed fail. That’s up to the good Lord. But if we believe enough in our farming, we just try again. We’ll have a crop turn out by and by, but we just have to be patient and keep working.”
Shortcut Sam rolled his eyes. He had heard this before. “Look, Farmer Fred, you can stick with the old ways if you want to, but the farmers who are on the cutting edge will soon pass you by.”
“Farmer Fred, you may not know this, but there are several experts out there right now who are developing new techniques for farming. I’m talking about techniques that will revolutionize the industry. For example, there is a new method out there now that causes only good, usable wheat to grow in your wheat field, and virtually eliminates the chaff. I mean, think about it! Do you really have time to separate the wheat from the chaff? With this new technique, the unpleasantries are made unnecessary. It’s amazing! But you want to know the most groundbreaking research that’s going on right now? (Obviously you haven’t been keeping up on this stuff.) Soon there will be tools and methods in place where a farmer might obtain “the cream of the crop” without the hassle of actually growing a crop.”
But Farmer Fred had had enough. “Stop!” he cried. “Young man, I hate to tell you this, but you’ve been listening to way too many people who are long on theories but short on experience. Let me tell you something, and you can take this to the bank: There are no shortcuts in farming.”
Shortcut Sam realized that he was fighting a losing battle, so he said curtly, “Suit yourself, Farmer Fred,” and made his exit.
Thirty years later, Farmer Fred sat on the front porch of his farmhouse with Mrs. Farmer Fred, looking over their farm. It was just about harvest time, and the fields were glistening with wheat and corn and vegetables. There were many more fields now than there were in those early years. They had added orchards and some vineyards too. Even though many of the crops were yet in the fields, the barn and silo were already overflowing with bounty.
“God has been good to us, dear,” said Farmer Fred.
“Indeed he has” replied his wife.
As he sat there enjoying the cool breeze and the sunset, his mind took him way back to three visitors who had once visited his farm. He was glad he hadn’t listened to Big Bob, the farmer-at-large. Gazing across the fruit of a lifetime of labor, the thought suddenly occurred to him. “This work would never have been accomplished had I not planted myself in this place and made this farm my life’s work.”
He was also glad he hadn’t listened to Ralph the Reaper. He thought, “Had I plucked up every unripe piece of grain or fruit that poked through the ground I would have never had anything to replant. This farm would have died off years ago.”
His mind wandered back to Shortcut Sam’s big ideas. “I wonder what ever became of him. I wonder if he ever realized that you can’t skip over all the long, hard work of farming and just go straight to the blessings. And I wonder if he ever decided to take a risk.”
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