Graduation 2020 And Wisdom From The Coffee Farm
Lessons from a 100% Kona Coffee farm to share with 2020 GraduatesMy high school senior son, graduating in 2020, gets no prom, no yearbook signings, and no live graduation ceremony (Due to COVID 19 in case anyone reads this in the future and has forgotten). Sad as this is for me, he shrugs it off as “whatever” and gets together with his friends online, playing games, making dis videos, and seeing who can get more TikTok likes. He’s been accepted to a great University on the other side of the country and I realize, these are the last months we will live together. In fact, he is our youngest so my wife and I are staring down the barrel of empty nest syndrome and it’s got me feeling a bit sentimental.
So much so that as I have been driving into work these last few days, I have imagined what wisdom I might impart to him and his 2020 graduating classmates in a commencement address given the opportunity. This got me thinking about the farm. (greenwellfarms.com) Being on the farm every day and connecting with the cycles of growth and harvest, navigating the dynamic realities of nature and market demand, and being in an environment where recognized quality is achieved through extreme effort and deep attention to detail, I realize there are endless pearls of wisdom that flow from life on the coffee farm. Here are a few of my favorites for all of those graduating in 2020:
The Ageless Treat of Pure Surprise
A farm is a living and producing entity that has cycles of health and sickness, years of abundance, and scarcity. The good farmer is in tune with this environment deeply and makes sure to notice everything. In the same way, an airline pilot must be in tune with his aircraft, by the use of all of his senses, so too the farm over time, becomes an extension of the farmer. In the pursuit to be connected and observant, the farmer is often rewarded with unexpected moments of amazement.
A rare wildflower blooms through a tiny crack in a lava rock wall. Two Chameleons walk across the road together almost is if on a date. Watching the sunset from the farm we look back towards the mountain to see an incredible double rainbow. The trade winds gently carry the fragrance of Gardenia, Plumeria, Coffee flower with equal parts subtlety and intensity.
As you set out to better yourself, don’t lose your childlike wonderment. Be fascinated, be curious, live in awe and appreciation of the amazing system within which you find yourself. No matter how focused you are on the task at hand, continue to be a fan of the larger experience.
Courage is a Muscle
What is it to plant a seed and expect it to grow and produce? It is an act of courage. In fact, we learn quickly on the coffee farm that planting a seed is a commitment, not a random hope for growth but a relationship of nurturing, feeding the plant, and battling those demons (fungi, insects, viruses) who would destroy your crop. Courage infuses everything we do. To strive to be the best, to allow yourself to be judged, to risk trying something new, to trust in nature, requires a strong heart. (By the way, the origin of courage comes from the Latin cor…meaning heart) Courage though is not merely faith that everything will be OK, it implies developing the quality of mind and character to do those things necessary to face danger and difficulty. Exercise your courage daily as it is the foundation of kindness, honesty, and generosity. Every amazing thing you will do in life requires courage. By accepting each new challenge with a brave heart, soon you will face greater and more rewarding challenges.
The Yucky Stuff Becomes Fertilizer
Our farm produces Kona Coffee of the highest quality. When you think of a gorgeous cup of Kona grown coffee in all of its aromatic and delicate glory you probably don’t imagine the dirt, but it is here the magic happens. In the pursuit of the healthiest trees, we compost everything on the farm. The rotting leaves, the discarded cascara, the branches and grasses, and expired fruit. Stinky, icky, heat-generating green and brown, melding together, breaking down into organic nutrients that are returned to the trees and help them thrive.
Remember this, all of those yucky days, all of the hard times and friction, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that appear in your life, given time, can be the very stuff that lifts you to a new level of growth and vitality. If you are graduating in 2020, you have had more than your fair share of craziness, but in 2025 or 2030 think of how much stronger and wiser you will be!
In recording music, there is a phrase that engineers like to use…GIGO. Garbage In Garbage Out. Great In Great Out. If you record a bad performance or a lousy signal, no amount of editing will make it better. The finished track will suffer no matter how great the engineer.
In the same way, we find on the farm that there are no shortcuts to quality, no substitution for doing it right. Excellence in 100% Kona Coffee is not by chance. Every day we have to decide anew to strive to be the best we can. Cultivating the discipline, the habits, the team, and the culture to strive toward excellence is a life long pursuit, but quality is its own reward. Knowing that you have done everything in your power, have given your all to the endeavor allows you to sleep well at night.
Another way to think about GIGO is in what you feed your mind. Fill your life with good thoughts and good people, self-motivate, self-educate, cultivate the good within yourself and you will manifest it in the world. At graduation ceremonies throughout history, people have often said to the graduates, “You are the future! You will go forward and solve the problems of the world.” Let me gently remind you though, that every generation has solved some problems and every generation has created new ones. Don’t forget that by cultivating goodness within yourself, you will automatically leave the world a little better.
So to you, the graduating class of 2020, as you face the future and go out into the ever-changing and evolving world, I congratulate you and wish you much joy and success. As you sip your coffee with friends or during finals week (hopefully 100% Kona Coffee) remember there is indeed wisdom in every cup.
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farm’s Tour and Retail Store Operations.