Farm life builds an athletic life: a farmer’s story of grains to gold
I grew up on a grain farm of about 2,500 acres in east central Saskatchewan. We grew mainly wheat, canola, barley and peas. In the spring, I was either on the tractor all day and night, or off to the ball diamond. In the fall, I was combining like crazy so we could go curling every weekend. Now, I think back on how much I loved being on the farm, in the tractor, on the curling ice and on the ball diamond. I lived for these things.
I’m lucky enough to still do one of these things at the highest of levels. I’m a World Bronze Medalist curler and Curling World Cup champion. I’ve even been able to play on some of the top ranked curling teams in the world over my seven-year professional career. One day, I hope to represent Canada at the Olympic games and win a gold medal!
I can firmly say that my upbringing on the farm is a huge part of my success on the curling ice. From the moment we were old enough to walk, we were doing chores and helping on the farm. We didn’t go home when the clock ran out; we went home when the work was done. I find this mentality has made me stronger in my sport. The relentless pursuit that is needed to get to the top of a sport is unlike anything else. If I had not learned that work ethic from a young age, I may not have done what was needed to become a top curling athlete. You need commitment and passion to work hard, and those are things the farm taught me and have helped me excel in curling.
Curling and farming are similar in so many ways. For example, farmers and curlers aren’t able to control variables such as weather (farming) and ice conditions (curling). If you are not familiar with winter sports, you may not know that ice conditions constantly change, forcing you to go with the flow, adapt, learn on the fly and trust your instincts to be successful. I compare this to weather conditions in farming. You can have a pretty good idea of what the weather is supposed to do, and a plan on how to manage challenges, but at the end of the day you must take what Mother Nature gives you and do the best you can with it.
In curling you also have an opposing team that is unpredictable, and obviously, beyond your control. This is similar to what farmers face selling on the grain markets. You can be educated about seasonal trends and consumer buying habits, but at the end of the day you may be totally blind-sided by unexpected market turns and need to make decisions on the fly to “stay in the game.”
The similarities between curling and farming continue with technology. There’s been an improvement in farming technology in recent years. Today, farmers can grow more crops with fewer inputs and less land than ever. Data analytics mix agronomy practices and technology to help farmers place fertilizer and seed, and optimize the use of weed, fungi and other pest control products. Farmers in many geographies now use equipment with guidance systems that eliminate overlap, which reduces input waste. And most farms have financial and accounting systems that track everything to ensure proper fiscal management.
Now let’s compare curling. It wasn’t long ago that curlers were smoking and drinking on the ice while playing a World Championship final (no joke). But today, we have some of the most finely-tuned athletes, thanks to technology. On the ice, we use elaborate camera systems to help us evaluate our deliveries and technique. Sophisticated timing devices help us learn to reproduce the consistent speed needed to execute at a high level. We also heavily rely on the use of expensive lasers to help us monitor, evaluate and reproduce delivery lines on a 150-foot sheet of ice.
We not only use this technology on the ice, we also rely on it to build our strategy and game plans. We keep large databases of competitor habits and statistics (theirs and ours) to give ourselves the best chance at success. We use video analysis and biomechanics in the gym to teach ourselves proper body movements to build muscle and prevent injury.
Curling and farming have been two constants in my life. I am forever blessed to be in both worlds and surrounded by amazing people who have helped shape my character. I always say if you want to see good character, visit a farm or a curling rink.
This blog post originally appeared on the author’s website. Used with permission.