Dignity

“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land's inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” 

Wendell Berry


My father’s parents ran a grocery store in a small south Texas town. My great uncle also owned the butcher shop nearby.  These generationally run businesses were both the victims of “progress”. They were replaced by bigger and more powerful national and regional players.

One of my father’s favorite stories about his parent's business was about something they did in the aftermath of the Great Depression. When they realized that the large box of IOUs they had accumulated from many of their neighboring residents, farmers, and ranchers could never be repaid, they destroyed them. I am sure similar versions of that story occurred all over the country. 

There was a huge backlash against Wal-Mart a few years ago. The typical result of them moving into a small town was that the butcher, grocer, mechanic, barber, optometrist, nursery, etc. would eventually go out of business only to be replaced by the aggregated offerings of the one superstore.  While this typically meant better pricing and selection for everyone, it also meant that local businesses and the families they supported were translated to hourly wage jobs barely tipping the poverty line.

Wendell Berry talks about a similar shift in Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food. Turns out that agri-business has relegated many family farms to the equivalent of an hourly wage: dictated crops and contracted returns on their efforts. There are documented losses in food quality and the proper reconstituting of the soil for longer-term use, but there is a more troubling loss that he spends most of his time discussing…

…the loss of dignity in the farmers.

The suicide rate for American farmers is 3 times that of the general population. 

When you take away a person’s ability to care for their family well...when you limit their ability to make decisions for themselves...  

When you remove the possibility of them holding onto and sustaining the family business and property they have typically owned for generations...

You rob them of their dignity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about progress. Helping organizations grow, mature, and change is what I do for a living. But in all things, we are working hard to make sure that the dignity of the individual work not only stays intact, but is increased and developed by the changes.

Ownership is cultivated through team leadership.

Engagement is grown through defining and celebrating culture.

Participation is encouraged through meeting structures.

Our powerful Position Agreements give everyone the clarity and understanding of the value of every role and the contribution it makes.

Progress and change, when handled responsibility, actually enhances the lives, individual dignity, and value of everyone.

Consider

  • Do you need to make some changes?
  • Does your organization need to grow, evolve, or mature?
  • Do you have the necessary structure and processes in place to make sure everyone benefits as the organization does?
  • How important is the dignity of the individual worker to you?

Watch this award winning commercial “So God Made a Farmer”.