Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Letter Encourages Dr. Farmer To Keep On Writing

June 22, 2009

Dear Dr. Farmer,

I read your column in our statewide farm publication. I am disturbed by the pained passion of the letters you shared. I felt your comparison of the "Farm Crisis of the mid-80's and the Mortgage Crisis" of today was quite reasonable. The main difference being in the 90's and 00's all semblance of regulation of the banking and financial sector of our society was removed.

Like a child raised in an unstructured environment, all forms of dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors became common. Greed, selfishness, hatred, exploitation of the weak and less educated or experienced now seems to be the American way.

I was one of those less experienced in the 1970's who bought into the idea that debt was the way to get ahead faster and realize my potential and dreams as well as provide for my wife and children. Little did I know the PCA loan officer was paid bonuses based on how much money he or she could put out on the equity the farmer had in land whose price was going nowhere but up. It sounds like the housing bubble of our day doesn’t it?

As much as people hated Paul Volker, me included, he had to bring a halt to the raging inflation expectations.

Our family had been in the small grain seed business since my grandfather graduated from an ag short course in 1906. Soybeans were just moving into our area of the country in the 70's and so I saw it as my role in life to incorporate this crop into our business. I studied the techniques to produce the highest quality seed possible, went to the Mississippi State University Seedsmans short course for a couple of years, and then set out to build the facilities to produce this superior seed. In 1979. In life timing is everything.

After struggling for eight years, the miracle of compound interest on top of declining land values got the best of me of me. I was bankrupt. I lost my farm, my home, my self respect, my status in the community. However by some miracle my wife and children rode it out with me. I am one of the most fortunate men on earth.

The reason I am writing to thank you these some 20 years later is because I've owed you my thanks all this time, but have found it difficult to talk about. I first discovered your column about '85 or '86.

The columns about co-dependency and the various roles in the condition set me to doing much more study.

Your columns about personal responsibility and the dysfunction of certain males growing up in a farming environment made a big impression. The richness and variety of ideas you presented from so many sources of psychological research have been so stimulating and helpful in my struggles to grow up emotionally. I find it hard to find adequate words to express my appreciation.

Certainly looking at your biography and the body of work you have created, yours has been a life well lived and a time well spent. I salute you and your strength!

As for me, the old Germans were right, "Too soon old, too late schmart."

What a wonderful letter! I appreciate greatly the many expressions of gratitude and thanks for the impact of my columns on people’s lives. It is meaningful to me that I may have been instrumental in helping people grow and make better choices about their lives. Letters and e-mails like this one help fuel my motivation to keep writing even though I find my enthusiasm for keeping a weekly column going waning as I grow older.

It is hard to keep focus on grand projects when the simple things of life become more appealing. I admit I am finding more and more rewards in being a grandfather, being a part of a loving family, doing physical labor in landscaping and gardening projects (maybe I could have been a good farmer after all) and giving more church and family service.

I am at a point where I am trying to do both - slow down and still keep my hand in offering advice and perspective through my column. My wife, Darlene, has given me support and encouragement throughout.

Even though her life would benefit from my reducing my work load, she, more than anyone else, feels my contribution is singular and is reluctant for me to stop my writing. She enjoys hearing the feedback and it validates her perspective that my column is still too valuable to be set aside.