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Finding Fruit From Failure

Finding Fruit From Failure

Life is full of risks, and learning how to plan wisely to face them and mitigate their impact is an ongoing challenge. Farming, which relies so much on the weather, is by very nature a “risky business.”

Imagine the anticipation an orchardist feels when he sees a wonderful full bloom on his fruit trees in the spring. He thinks, “Wow, this is going to be a great year!” But in the back of his mind, he always fears that freezing weather could come and destroy his crop.

Sometimes there is no freeze, but the flowers still die, leaving the farmer puzzled about the cause of the crop failure.

Over the past 23 years in our work with fruit tree farmers of Central Asia, we have collaborated closely with the local farmers to solve many puzzles.

One lesson we have learned with the farmers is that crop failure is often not the result of a single cause but, rather, a combination of several interacting factors.

We may not be able to control the weather, but there are many things we can do to mitigate the risk it poses. We try to work toward addressing the things we have control over, such as correct pruning, irrigation, nutrition, and pest control practices.

We also encourage the farmers to spread their risks by not planting only one type of fruit tree and planting several different varieties, as typically they have varying degrees of cold resistance.

When facing crop failure, here are 3 main responses I see from farmers:

1. Give up: Some farmers give up and are literally cutting down their trees they have worked for over 5 years to cultivate!

2. Do nothing: Some farmers are not investing in their orchard this season since they will not get a short-term return from a fall harvest. They do not want to pay to control the pests and diseases or fertilize the trees.

3. Learn and grow: Some farmers learn from the heartbreak and press on. Though they lost this year’s crop, they still see great potential in their orchard. They know that if they do not invest in it this year by controlling pests, fertilizing, and irrigating well, they definitely will not have a good crop next year.

As I watch these 3 responses, I see the parallel in my own life and in the lives of others when responding to failure:

1. Give up: Some give up on trusting their Creator for His good purposes for their lives.

2. Do nothing: Some do nothing and don’t learn from the failure. They don’t see the end goal or how the current trial can make them stronger, wiser, and more mature.

3. Learn and grow: Some trust their Creator and that He has a purpose in failures.

The farmers who choose to learn and grow see a silver lining when their crops freeze. They discover which varieties are more resistant to cold temperatures, and they plant more of those varieties in the future.

These farmers teach us what steps to take to be better equipped to face the challenges of the next season.

About the Author: Patrick is IDEAS Agriculture Sector Director and Orchard Training Program Manager and Consultant. He has worked in fruit orchard renovation and development in Central Asia for over 20 years. Enjoy other posts from IDEAS agriculturalists, such as "The Quick Solution May Not Be the Best Solution."