By Doug Fabbioli
In Like a Lamb….?
I remember growing up with the old saying describing March as “coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb.” As a young boy I learned how this saying can be turned around and adjusted to fit the weather of any particular March–it can just as easily be “in like a lamb and out like a lion.” As farmers, we learn to ride Mother Nature’s waves so that we don’t expend too much energy fighting her, instead trying to make the most of what she gives us on a regular basis.
This year’s phase of late winter/early spring has been great weather for the farmers to keep their tractors in the barn! We have had bits of rain, bits of snow and bits of sunshine. I have been hesitant to do any ground work as everything will just be a mud pit after 20 minutes of tractor work. I have a few sections where I need to get some ground work done but I know it’s not worth the mess I would make. Through this process of working with Mother Nature, I think I have learned a bit of patience, waiting for the right window to put forth the effort towards success. Maybe that patience has come with the experience and maturity. I have been farming in Virginia for 21 years now, and have learned plenty about what works and what doesn’t.
Just as patience is important when working with the ground, I see how it makes a difference in business as well. Some ideas take time to come to fruition. Being a farmer of perennials, I know that patience has to be accepted—some things just can’t be rushed. Grapevines and pear trees can only grow so fast, and businesses often grow the same way. Hopefully we find that plateau of sustainable, balanced business before over-building or over-investing. We certainly do not want to see the bursting of an economic bubble, especially one that is built around barnyards and farm animals. I have learned that well-established vines can deliver more flavor, depth, complexity, and overall quality than they did when first planted. The skills of the winemaker grow right along with the vines. The more years spent working with wine, and self-evaluation of styles, skills and quality, the more capable that person is of making a better product. As our business has been open for 12 years now, we have hopefully worked out the bugs of operation to a point where each of us knows how to handle a very busy day, a power outage, a sudden storm, an injury, a bad review, or any of the thousand things that can throw a young business off its game. The success of these sustainable businesses are built around time, patience, persistence, and wise decisions.
As our rural economy continues to grow and diversify, we will see more businesses popping up and entrepreneurs learning their land, products, customers, and staff. The risks can be great, but the customers are generally interested in the discovery process. We all appreciate the patience our customers show when things are not going exactly as we planned on a busy Saturday afternoon. Each business has its opportunity to succeed, stumble, learn, and face another season if the leaders are wise enough to be patient. So the lion or the lamb may be a great way to define a point in time, but through patience we have learned that both will show up at some point. Hopefully we have the shears ready when the lamb comes and the cage waiting for the lion.