When Everything is Important

March 18, 2024

As regenerative farmers, we are responsible for stewarding an ecosystem that is very complex – much too complex for us to totally understand. Even though it might be interesting, we have to face the fact that the soil and plant ecosystem has too many working pieces for us to ever totally figure out how everything works.

However, we can take comfort in the fact that it was designed to work – sometimes in ways that seems much too simplistic – when certain principles are adhered to. We should also know that when these principles are not adhered to, then things become very complex.

Here is a saying that has really resonated with me:  When everything is important, then nothing is. I first read it a number of years ago, and it has been helpful to think about in many aspects of my life.

Highly effective people recognize that when everything is important, then nothing is. As a result, they seek to understand what really is the most important.  Once they have identified what that is, they prioritize it and focus on it intensely. The next question might be, “How can we make the biggest impact with the least amount of input?” If I would have to choose one book on this topic, I would probably pick “The One Thing”.

Again, when everything is important, then nothing is. We could take this in several different directions in the context of agriculture:

  • First, it is very easy to focus on all the problems – the things we may see such as weeds, insects, diseases, etc. What we need to realize is that the most important thing in this context is to shift our perspective, and see them as just symptoms, not the problem. They are trying to tell you something;
  • Second, instead of trying to deeply understand each of these symptoms, focus on learning something much more important: the six key principles of regenerative agriculture. The book I mentioned earlier. “The One Thing”, contains a focusing question: “What is the one thing that I can do, such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”. If you are a farmer, understanding these principles of regenerative agriculture should be your one thing.
  • Third, we know that every nutrient has a specific role in the plant and soil world. Instead of applying a little of all of them just because they are important, we would much rather that you test your plants, or your soil, and apply only what you need.
  • Similarly, when foliar feeding, resist the temptation to dump in the whole kit and kaboodle. Instead, focus on applying only the most limiting factors for optimal photosynthesis, or a specific challenge that you are trying to address.

When we say “When everything is important, then nothing is”, we are not saying that you should not look at the complete picture. You should. But then ask, “What is holding me back?” Take the time to explore and identify limiting factors on your farm. And remember that the limiting factors are not always minerals. It can be soil compaction that is limiting soil breathability. Or does the life in the soil need to be nurtured more? Oftentimes, there are management practices that can have a foundational impact on everything else, and if so, this is the one thing to focus on.

There is a really good book that all farmers should read. It is called “A Soil Owner’s Manual”. It contains the main principles for regenerating soils. My personal opinion is that everyone needs this book just as much as you need an owner’s manual for any other equipment.

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Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC