Between the Rows: If You Want My Advice…

Everyone has an answer. Whose matters?

Published online: Mar 05, 2018 Articles Tyrell Marchant, Editor
Viewed 2816 time(s)
This column appears in the March 2018 issue of Potato Grower.

March is back, and you all know what that means: March Madness, baby! I usually try to present myself with some air of decorum, but the advent of college basketball’s glorious, messy, perfect, 68-team minefield to a championship inevitably draws out my true identity—an irrationally invested, joyously anarchic man-child.

Of course, the most important part of the event occurs in the days and hours immediately preceding the actual tournament: The Filling Out of Brackets. Across America, tens of millions of people put pen to paper in an attempt to predict the outcome of every game of the madness. It matters not if you’ve analyzed a thousand hours of game film or if you’re only vaguely aware of what basketball is. This mass attempt at fortunetelling has become almost as American as mashed potatoes. If you correctly predict an outcome none of your friends do, you’re a genius, at least until the next game ends. (Correctly picking Wisconsin-Milwaukee into the Sweet 16 in ’05 is one of my prouder moments of prescience.)

For those of us who care just a little too much about appearing a genius—such as, unabashedly, yours truly—the miracle that is the internet is chock-full of tips and tricks for filling out the perfect bracket. Which No. 1 seed will fall first? Which 12 will beat a 5? Which small-school star will shoot his way into our hearts? Which dark-horse contender should you put in the Final Four? The advice from the “experts” is all over the place, and they all have the secret formula for a winning bracket.

It’s not just the tournament, though, that gets the advice flowing from every direction. In this day of instant communication, advice is a prevalent, perhaps even rampant, reality. Every magazine on the rack, from Successful Farming to Sports Illustrated, from Field & Stream to Cosmopolitan, offers “Six Tips to Help You…” do just about anything better. You can’t do anything or go anywhere without someone telling you your life will be better if you do it their way.

Not to hurt the feelings of any of our friends in the industry, but, man, are there a lot of ideas—many of them conflicting—out there as to how to get rich as a farmer. Your dad, your brother, the farm manager, a dozen different field men, the estate planner, the extension guy, the USDA guy, your other brother, six competing equipment salesmen, your neighbor Frank, your other neighbor Pat, some know-it-all guy in the magazine, the lawyer, the banker, your smart-but-cocky teenager … Everyone knows what’s best for your farm.

Advice comes in myriad forms, most of them unwarranted and unwanted. That doesn’t mean it’s all worthless. A guy just has to understand which sources merit consideration.

Over the last year or so, I’ve become aware that I’ve gotten to the age where people are now, against all logic, sometimes asking my advice. Nieces and nephews, younger siblings, even people I look to as examples, have asked about my experiences and my interpretation of how those relate to their own.

It’s been a bit of a humbling realization. Not only am I, you know, old enough to be looked to some kind of authority on life, but people I love actually expect something I say to play some role, however minor, in their happiness. Where do you think I should go to school? Do you think I should take this job? Is this guy worth marrying? These are full-on grown-up questions, and answering them for myself was difficult enough, never mind superimposing my opinions on someone else’s life. It’s always been a dream of mine to have what I say matter, but when it comes down to it, conjuring up the right words is a bit daunting.      

I suppose it all comes from heeding perhaps the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. The day after I graduated from high school, my grandfather said to me, “Well, you’re the same age as me now—out of high school. Welcome to being a grown-up.” I don’t know if Grandpa was trying to impart some life-defining wisdom in that moment, but he did. I’ve lived my post-high school life on the premise that if I acted like an adult, accepted responsibility for my actions, treated people well, and put in the work, I could expect to be treated as anyone’s equal. Because of that one piece of advice, I feel like a real, live grown-up, despite my irrepressible childish nature.

As we enter this growing season, each grower will be faced with a lot of questions and even more answers. What should you do?

Well, if you want my advice…