Progress and The Farmer

Progress and The Farmer

The Farmer had been the same all his life.

He used the same hoeing tools his father, and his father’s father, had used. He used the same ox-pulled plough from the last century that was weathered and broken, but The Farmer insisted did as fine a job as any of these newfangled tractor machines.

His crop was always small, despite him telling his wife that this year was going to be the bumper year when everything changed for him. His customers were the small town back alley grocery stores and delis.

And this was just the way the farmer liked it.


Sure, he could have moved with Progress and bought a new tractor, with a steel plough and a hoeing turnover 50x that of his manual labour efforts. He could be producing more, and earning more into the bargain. But he wasn’t, and didn’t need to.

As he always told his drinking buddy whenever the question of change and Progress came up, the answer was simple.

“Progress is just a fad. My customers are exactly where I know they’ll be; sure, my crop may be small but then I don’t have to worry about growing too much. And, yes, the new tractors are more effective and quicker to do what needs doing, but where’s the fun in speed?”

His friend would look at him each time and ask his next question, even though he knew the answer. “But aren’t you scared of being left behind and having nothing left to give? No crop, no customers, because they’ve all moved on with Progress?’

The Farmer would smile, almost in a fatherly way. “There’s a reason the old ways have seen us survive this long. You mark my words, if people like me don’t want to take part in the new world, we’ll survive. It’s not like we’re the dinosuars who couldn’t adapt to the new age.”

The Farmer’s friend shook his head and went back to his drink. The talks were always the same – The Farmer would never change, even if the world around him was moving faster than even he could have anticipated. Besides, there was always tomorrow to convince him.

The Farmer

But that change in heart and mind tomorrow never came. And so The Farmer continued to plough, and to hoe, and to work and sell at a fraction of the amount of the new machines and their Progress drivers.

Winter came, and the crop had been poor. The stockpile for the cold nights was less than ever, and The Farmer’s wife was worried. Her husband sounded poorly too, with a wheezing cough and a fever from long toil and little rest.

She knew the way he worked was killing him, and she begged him to see sense and move with Progress. But she received the same retort The Farmer’s friend received whenever mentioning that word that had almost become like a deadweight around The Farmer’s neck.

“Over my dead body will I ever change and move with Progress,” The Farmer said proudly. “My father, and my father’s father, built and made this farm. And I’ll be damned if I change their teachings for some fancy metal and gears. All these machines do is end your day quicker and get you to your grave faster because of it. Progress? Progress will kill you!”

The Farmer’s Wife turned away. She knew her words were weak – no matter how she presented them, The Farmer would always counter and deny Progress. So the wife went and sat by the fire and tended her book.


The next year, as the warmth of the sun began its first steps over the land in four months, all was quiet on the farm.

The bustle of the hens and the mooing of the cows were all that greeted passers-by. Or would have, had there been any. That’s not to say there were no people there; but they weren’t the ones any home wishes to entertain.

The black car sat patiently as The Farmer and his final resting bed were loaded into the back. His wife sobbed silently, as she watched the man she spent a lifetime with take leave of her now.

The cold had been unkind to him; the Winter enveloped him and spared him from the Spring.

The black car drove off, with The Farmer’s wife following. As the cars left the silent farm, the wife took a look around at the things that had changed since they first took over the farm.

In fields all around her, large tractors and harvesters of every description were ploughing acres of land and trucks were being loaded with produce. It was as if her husband and the proud way of working life he rose to every day didn’t even exist anymore.

“Progress,” she said to herself as her car drove passed the machinery and into the city ahead. “It’ll kill you.”

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  1. says

    Interesting analogy… although in todays culture the farmer may in fact have found himself a new market. People who are prepared to pay more for a crop that is pure and made solely through sustainable energy etc…

    Just saying there is value in the old methods… it’s all about the positioning of them

    • says

      Very true, Geoff, and as I mentioned to @twitter-103512565:disqus, that was definitely one of the takeaways that could be read from the open approach of the post. Like you say, mate, the old doesn’t need to be the dead – simply take new opportunities that other players don’t want.

      Cheers, mate. :)

  2. says

    I liked the story, but I didn’t get the point. I’m sorry. I was thinking you were going to end up talking about the Amish and how successful they are, despite not buying into technology, but he just died. So, what was the point?

    • says

      Hi mate,

      I deliberately left it open-ended, so the reader could take away their own message. It could be that ignoring progress will kill your business; or it could be that your small business survives, as long as you look after its health. It could be about ignorance; or about how innovations scare people when they should be embracing the new age.

      This was one time I didn’t want to lead to a clear ending. Cheers, sir!

  3. Alex D says

    As a 20-something who grew up in the digital age and is STILL struggles to keep up with just about every different type of “Progress” there is, I felt a deep sorrow for the farmer throughout the story.
    I think the main thing I took away was to simply take Progress as it comes. It might not be essential for your everyday life or business to adopt every little thing that that comes down the road but having some level of intuition to know that everything changes eventually is crucial. If you are completely resistant to that, you might end up like the farmer. Though these days, as Geoff said, customers might like a small farmer’s organic produce. (But that too might be a fad. But I digress…)
    If nothing else, this is yet another cautionary tale to people in their 20s and 30s to try to learn from the baby boomer generation. Our openness to progress now needs to be at least equal if not even greater in about 30 years.

    • says

      Great point, Alex – like you say, as long as you’re open to adapting progress as you need it, instead of just ignoring it flat out, then the future should be fine. It’s when we ignore change through stubborn ignorance that the problems arise.


  4. Tim Bonner says

    Hi Danny

    In farming, Progress has, in some ways, come full circle in that many are now seeing the benefits of the traditional farming methods over intensive modern agriculture.

    Sometimes Progress isn’t always beneficial but the only way to find that out is to go with it and find out for yourself.

    • says

      Good point, Tim – take organic crops, for example, and how the pesticide “craze” has been shown to be the flaw it is when it comes to our health. Like anything, the new and the old work best when mixed for everyone’s benefit.

      Cheers, sir.

  5. says

    This was great – I love it when you take a step out of the marketing world thought process and tell us a story. This reminded me of so many people I spoke to back in 2009 when I first started working on social media campaigns. They would fight me with their last breath that their way would survive. I use to try to explain to them how they were missing out but now when I meet someone like the Farmer, I thank them for their time and walk on.

  6. says

    Yes, Progress. I remember when people said that there was no need for the fax machine, that there was no need for the photocopier, that computers were too hard to learn and the human hand and brain can do a better job. Those same people looking back now knew if they hadn't changed, Progress would have killed them.

    • Danny Brown says

      I once recall (and I don't know if it's true or not) a quote about Alexander Graham Bell trying to sell his telephone concept. The response – "But we have telegrams – people prefer speaking to each other directly face-to-face, and getting other messages by telegram." I wonder whatever happened to that person? 😉

  7. Joe Lee says

    We have to keep up or get kick out. I was just thinking that twenty years ago, wanting to know new friends, we used pen-pals that were published in magazines. Now, we have facebook.