Throughout my day, there are many projects to handle, fires to put out, and concepts to wrap my head around. As with any of you, I tangle with the day-to-day operations of work and life.

Albeit difficult at times, I try to clear a space in my daily schedule—somewhere in the time frame of 30 minutes—for some calm to reflect on what has transpired and to focus on the big picture. In the rapid pace of life we often fail to plan ahead.

So I put a high premium on my travel to farm sites and trade shows for several reasons. One, it gets me out of the office for a change of scenery; and two, it gives me the opportunity to meet many of the industry folks, as was the case at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, earlier this month.

The whole experience does wonders for me. I’m still embattled in the day-to-day matters, but meeting growers and manufacturers sparks ideas for stories just waiting to be written. Although it can be a recharger, traveling and the preparation behind it still requires my focus on the tasks at hand while yearning to decompress.

For instance, while I was in the final planning stages for my trip to Tulare, I stumbled across an article in The Press Democrat out of Sonoma County, California ( The feature highlights the life of Nancy Skall, who was known as the “Queen of Sonoma County Produce.” Skall passed away last month, she was 84.

In the late 1980s, she and her husband purchased 8 acres known as Middleton Farm, where she mastered the craft of organic farming. Skall’s various fruits and vegetables, along with her trademark wit and flare for bright colors, made her a Bay-area notable among the many highend restaurants that used her produce. She was also a staple at the area farmers markets. She worked on the farm, worked the market booths, and personally delivered produce to the Bay area restaurants literally until her last days.

After reading her story, I realized how happy Skall must have been to have the chance to work in an environment she loved so much. She had many jobs throughout her early life—secretary, artist, interior designer—but she always had a passion for growing.

Skall’s story prompted me to step back and reflect on the accomplishments in my career, and my life in general. If we all had just a portion of the passion that Nancy Skall had for her work, I bet we would surprise ourselves in what we could accomplish, and be grateful not for the lives we want, but for the lives we have.