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Fresh eyes

Sundee Holtman for Progressive Forage Published on 05 August 2021

My little sister, Sadey, was my go-to. Not sure what to wear? Overthinking a situation? Frustrated over something? Stumped with writer’s block? Stuck in my own stubborn way? Sadey was always there. But, did she just listen? Oh no, she brought what I often needed, what I like to call, “fresh eyes” to each of my scenarios.

You see, though Sadey and I grew up in the same bedroom and are only 21 months apart in age, we are vastly different people and often opposite in every way. If my favorite color was pink one day, she chose blue. She prefers the cold, hard truth, whereas I will take my criticism coated in sugar. She played point guard; I played post. Her hair is a whirl of curls, and my locks can’t seem to make up their mind. I achieved in FFA; she said, no way.

No matter how big or small our differences were, they were not to be set aside; they brought value to our collaboration. And, though it was easy to say, “She doesn’t understand,” when her view on things didn’t align with my own, if I took a moment to listen and consider— her advice typically benefitted me in some way. Even today, my helplessly narrow, naïve and jaded perspective needs her. Her eyes provide an opposite view that adds value. Her fresh eyes clarify my vision, shift my gaze and cast my eyes to a much wider view.

Though we [agriculturalists] and the typical consumer are often opposite in every way, I am learning that consumers can offer a unique set of fresh eyes to our own scenarios. In a day and age in which consumers have a huge say in our labels, niche markets and methods of production, it is far too easy to complain that they just don’t understand.

And, often they don’t. But, neither do we.

Let me explain. You probably wouldn’t find me reaching out to just any typical Joe for advice on pasture rotation, weaning calves or chopping silage. What perspectives I do think others outside of our own calling can add are the sights of a doctor who sees mothers daily who are struggling to understand which labels deem a food to be “healthy.” The sights of a vegan who has been told we only care about money, not our animals. The sights of a chef who appreciates the quality of our product. The sight of what should be a sixth-generation farmer but who decided to choose another career route because there just wasn’t room.

There are many perspectives that can enhance our own.

Sadey and I don’t share a bedroom today (which I may or may not be thankful for). Nowadays, we chat about life via FaceTime, calls and texts. What puts a smile on my face is that I’ve found that sometimes she needs my fresh eyes too.

It goes both ways. Consumers also need our perspective. They need our expertise in producing, the example of our work ethic, the essence of our family values, and much more. So, I ask, where can a set of fresh eyes be helpful for you? And, to whom can you provide a set of fresh eyes?  end mark

Sundee Holtman
  • Sundee Holtman

  • Editorial Intern
  • Progressive Forage
  • Email Sundee Holtman