On October 5, 2011, the world said goodbye to Steve Jobs: a relentless innovator, a charismatic visionary, an unapologetic perfectionist and certainly one of the most important people of the last 100 years. How does this figure into a magazine and industry concerned with producing fruits, vegetables and nuts? Follow me on this; I think I can bring it around. If not, bear with me.
Some background: I’m an Apple fan from old times; I’d be considered a bit of a fanatic or fanboy by most people. One of my first experiences with computers was a Macintosh II, way back in the mid-’80s; it had me quickly forgetting my Commodore-64. Yeah, I was a nerd and a geek. Through the years, I’ve maintained a lifelong relationship with Apple, Inc., not only as a consumer but as a certified Apple tech for a few years, a developer and tester for Apple software and other suitably geeky roles. I’m writing this on a Mac, while listening to music on my iPhone, and this magazine is designed and produced on Apple computers. It’s not that different elsewhere. Every industry is now connected to and with computers, and in no small part, Apple, Inc. was the driving force in technology. Thanks to Steve, there’s an app for that, and “that” is just about everything, including things in our industry.
So, what does Steve Jobs passing mean to me? Strangely, a lot, given that I never met him. I write this the day after his death, and I’ve been deeply affected. His drive, his products and his vision have informed much of my life, both professional and personal. In the last 24 hours, dozens of quotations have been attributed to him, all of them inspiring and powerful, but this one phrase from his 2005 Stanford commencement address struck a chord with me as far as our industry:
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
I bet if you’re reading this, you can answer that with a resounding “Yes!”
Why do I know that? Because in the last 15 years of working with and for farmers, I’ve rarely met a more passionate, more committed group of professionals. Aside from being a geek as a kid, I spent part of my childhood on a dairy farm, as a farm kid – working, learning and living. You’ve got to love what you do to be a farmer, because you’re certainly not in it to get rich.
Now, that quote is pretty aspirational. You could pretty easily say, “Well, that’s fine for Steve; he was sitting at a desk, imagining gadgets and drinking nonfat soy lattes while delegating.” You’d be right, of course. That old Dwight D. Eisenhower quote comes to mind: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” To the men and women toiling out in the fields picking lettuce or apples, you may not wake up thinking, “Man, I can’t wait to get out there for 16 hours and bust my butt.” Then again, maybe you do.
I certainly hope so, because what you (and we) do in this industry every day is essential. Your work is your life, and your work means life for all. Producing the safest, most abundant food supply in the world is amazing.
I’ll close with a final thought from the same commencement speech:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Bob M. Montgomery