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We have experiences that at the moment seem insignificant but turn out to be life altering. I had such an experience when I was about 8 years old. As I remember it, I was in the kitchen with some of my aunts and uncles when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without hesitation I said a farmer and everyone laughed. You see, I grew-up in the city — not like LA but big enough — and it had been decades since any of my extended family lived or worked on the farm. I don't know where the urge to work in the dirt came from but as long as I can remember I have loved planting vegetable gardens. Well, you can image how my sense of who I was going to be got crushed that afternoon in the kitchen of my home. I never spoke of it again — at least not seriously.
You know what...I've had the last laugh on my relatives. I did become a farmer — well sort of. Instead of growing fruits and vegetables I grow students. Okay, stop laughing...I'm serious. Farming is about preparing the soil for planting fragile seeds. My student affairs work is about preparing the environment in which students will be placed. Farming is about nurturing growth — the right amount of fertilizer, sunshine, water, pesticide, etc. I nurture student growth through opportunities and challenge, policy and practice, rules and regulations. Just like a farmer, I don't control all the variables — sometimes with all of my efforts the yield is sparse, sometimes the outcomes are bountiful. Farmers need to know when the crops are ready for harvesting; I need to know when to "hold up the mirror" to show the student that s/he is ready to go it alone. And, of course, just like a farmer I often find myself up to my ankles in manure.
Oh, you'll have to stop by the office this summer and try some of my home grown strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, and anything else I can fit into my backyard farm...just call me Farmer Terry.