An Accidental Farmer Finds Life Lessons

Rick Kraft

“FARMER Rick.” That is what my wife is calling me these days. After more than 40 years of working indoor jobs, I have become a weekend pecan farmer.

My wife and I had a home built on several acres 21 years ago in an area called the “pecan orchard.” There are pecan trees every direction we look.

We have about 115 trees behind our house. A local pecan business took care of our trees for 20 years until they stopped this year. Suddenly we had to figure out how to take care of them.

I had no idea where to begin. I had never even watered the trees before. It took three months to get my water rights moved to my well and then I installed a water line.

I can’t tell you the joy I felt when I turned the water valve on for the first time and water rushed out a riser at 55 gallons per minute. I felt like I had struck oil! With trees that had not been watered in nine months, turning the water on last month brought to life new issues.

Now it was up to the laws of nature and me to get water to each tree.

My wife got me a pair of waterproof boots. She watched Farmer Rick from a lawn chair as I got to work. Our 8-year-old house dog, a Boston Terrier, suddenly became a country dog. He loved the freedom of running up and down the row of trees and into and out of the water that was turning his coat from black to a muddy brown.

As water came rushing out of the riser the first time, I wasn’t sure exactly where it would go. I learned the first basic lesson of nature … water will always flow downhill.

My orchard, which appears flat, actually slopes down to one corner. Gravity, which affects every minute of every day for each of us, partnered with the heavy flow of water to cause it to move in that direction.

The water pooled, then it looked for the lowest spot to move to. My job was to make sure the lowest spot was the direction I wanted it to flow. So, with my hoe in hand, I moved dirt and built ridges to coach the water, opening up paths for it to move across my property. The water was absorbed into the soil by the first tree, then it moved down to the next tree and so on.

As I worked the land, I got philosophical, thinking about how farming pecan trees reflects life itself.

When water hits a barrier, it stops and builds up until it can find a place to go. If the barrier is not removed, water may move in a direction it shouldn’t move. It was my job to try to remove the barriers to allow a free flow of water to the waiting trees.

As it is with life, no sooner would I remove one barrier than another was created. I soon felt like my job became simply one of removing barriers.

What happens upstream impacts what happens downstream. I learned that actions bring consequences. Without action upstream, it didn’t really matter what was going on downstream. I had to create action upstream to get water downstream.

What I was trying to do as Farmer Rick was to bring nourishment to lives that needed nourishment.  Water is a necessary element for trees to thrive. This column is one of my efforts to help people thrive.

Getting nourishment to all the trees takes time and effort. I was constantly having to take action and then respond to the results of the action. Trees won’t grow to be the best they can be without intentional attention.

The trees closer to the source received more water than the trees at the other end. In my life, I want to be close to the source of what causes the growth.

Like pecan trees, we need to be healthy and grow tall and strong. We need to get sufficient nourishment to be able to bear fruit for the benefit of others.

My challenge to you is to become the best version of you that you can be. Intentionally seek nourishment so you can nurture others. In the process of growing yourself, make sure that your equipping yourself is not about you, but about producing fruit for the benefit of others.

Trees naturally grow as big as they can. For you to grow, you have to make a choice to do so.

Water will always take the easiest path available to it. Maybe the barriers of your life are telling you to move a different direction. Or maybe you need to try to remove a barrier to continue on with your purpose.

Life is learning how to overcome obstacles. You will never have an easy path downstream all day, every day. Hopefully you can make it around the obstacles to add value to others ahead of you.

Sometimes water gets off the main stream and spins on the side. If you are there, get back into the flow. You were not created to sit on the sideline.

Grow tall and bear fruit for the benefit of others. Provide shade for those near you now, and at the same time plant seeds for shade trees that will live on after you are gone.

Enough of this writing. I need to get back outside and take care of my trees.

Just a thought …

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker, published author and attorney. To submit comments, contributions or ideas, e-mail to