I just returned from my Grandpa's funeral, Ray F Miller. He was 97 years old and finally breathed his last breath. They say the 'F' in his middle initial didn't really stand for anything, so everyone joked that it was for 'farmer,' which he was.
I've always viewed farming as the ultimate roots of free agency. You own your land, you raise crops or animals, you stay close to home and have lunch in the afternoon with your family. You work as hard as you can and depend on neighbors for help in times of trouble, and rely on the Lord for rain and to hold off the frost. You truly reap what you sow.
It wasn't till this funeral that I realized what an astute businessman Grandpa was. After growing up on a farm and learning the trade, he began his independent life working a farm for a wealthy gentleman in New York. As part of the arrangement the man let him have a stake in the cattle, till ultimately Grandpa owned quite a herd over a decade's time. He was feeding his young family, apprenticing and building assets at the same time. Good man.
At the age of 39 (which interestingly enough, happens to be my current age), he was ordained and accepted a position as pastor of a small church in Johnsville, OH. Pastoring was his heart's desire. His only income from this position was a quarterly 'love offering,' which meant his main sustenance needed to come from elsewhere, like farming. He again worked a farm for another land owner while scouting around to purchase his own place, which he did after just one year. He claimed a house and barn and 96 acres for $13,000 in 1954 (pictured below), full picture posting at my Facebook photo album).
He worked that farm for 20 full years, building an addition on to the house, outfitting the barn with modern dairy equipment, and in 1974 sold it during an abundant time in real estate for a princely $800,000.
Let's think about that a bit. A farm, while providing a home, is a business. In the mid 1900s there were many men who had 'given up the farm' for easier, more consistent income as an employee in various companies that sprung up during the industrial revolution. I can't speak for those men, but if we look back historically we know that companies spent huge amounts of resources on 'company moral' and 'workplace environment.' Why? Because they had taken men used to hard work, self-discipline, the ebb and flow of success and failure (droughts and floods that affected crop yields), community involvement and reliance, family affairs and building personal assets…and sat them behind a desk or a lever in a sterile environment where they were simply paid a check for fulfilling a duty. The same thing, day in and day out.
Men fell into depression and work productivity fell. The companies had to scramble to artificially manufacture personal purpose and relationships and 'meaning' into the workplace. This is very similar to breakfast cereals. People used to eat raw, whole grains and nuts and breads for breakfast. Industry took these 'cereals' and stripped everything good from them, while adding sugar, preservatives and dye. This is where we get 'Fruit Loops' and 'Count Chocula,' God help us. The public gullibly accepted what was put on the store shelves cause it did in fact taste good and the kids clambered for it until the fattened, hyped up kids got the attention of somebody with a brain who said, "Wait a minute, there is no nutritional value in this crap!" So, instead of going back to what was really healthy, they just 'fortified' the cereal with the vitamins and nutrients they had stripped out. The cereal still has too much sugar, preservatives and chemicals, even if it is "Fortified with 8 essential vitamins and iron!" That's like putting frosting on a turd. And we still consume it. Please, for the love of God, yourself and those you love who will have to care for you…buy this book for your health and diet (Food Rules).
The above scenario is still occurring in the workplace today. The easy money "tastes good", but the workplace has to be 'fortified' with "8 essential perks and benefits" in order to keep us there without falling into despair and depression. Though it's not as big a deal today as we've become comfortably numb and don't feel the longings of purpose and meaning as acutely any more.
A reader of mine recently sent me a quote from an article about the slums in Thailand. These cardboard and corrugated metal dwellings all have a blue glow immolating at night. From…TVs. Government supplied. Why? To keep them from rioting. To quell their discontent.
I think you get my point.
So back to my Grandpa. While many were renting their work and at the end of 20 years getting the gold watch for their loyalty, he made a 6,150% increase on his investment. $13,000 to $800,000. He had control over his work so he could do the job as he saw fit, apprentice his kids in work ethic and family and stick close to home, pastor a church and invest his community, and generally decide who he was, what he would do and how he could best serve at any given moment. The outside air, exercise, natural eating and complete fulfillment of purpose kept him active and vibrant and working till he was *85. After my Grandma died and he couldn't do what he wanted, he did decline. Without the ability to fully engage in what his heart and mind were called to, he lost the will to continue. Somewhat unfortunately to him, the lifetime of healthy living kept his body rolling till he was just nipping at a full century old. Pictured below, Ray & Clara Miller – Grandpa & Grandma).
So here you and I are today. Are we working at something that we enjoy? That inspires and invigorates us? Can we work and live as we see fit this very day, or are we merely responding to the dictates of someone else's agenda? Is our work adding up to something for society and our own prosperity, or are we just trading our time to pay for bills and 'stuff,' and in essence renting our lives away? Is it possible to create wealth as an employee? Is work meant to pad our comfort and be as easy as possible, or is that missing the point and it's supposed to have purpose and meaning and value, no matter that it may NOT…be the easiest choice?
I'll let you answer these questions today, as I do, or ponder them aloud in the comments area below.
Agent K Miller
Never, ever…giving up the farm
*Not one to stay idle long, after Grandpa sold the farm he bought the first of many passenger vans and began transporting Amish far and wide. My brother Jared and I always thought that would be a great name for a rock band, "Haulin' Amish." The Amish don't believe in owning cars, yet somehow justified paying my Grandpa to drive them further distances than they could realistically travel with their horses and buggies. He did this till age 85 when he attempted to drive through a flooded stream on the road that carried his van away and nearly drowned him. He accepted then that God wanted him to retire.