My day at the chicken farm

I spent last Friday with my brother-in-law – also named Steve – at his chicken farm, just outside of Moulton, Texas.

Steve bought the farm six years ago to “grow” eggs for Tyson, the second largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef, and pork.

It was a terrific day, both weather-wise and just sharing the company of my brother-in-law. You can get a little glimpse of a day-in-the-life on the farm, in the photo essay I captured on my Flickr photostream.

As I drove out to Steve’s farm, about 90 minutes from central Austin, I was struck by a the thought of how, in such a small distance, it was both literally and figuratively a journey from one field of work to another entirely different field of work, with which I (and perhaps you, the reader) was somewhat familiar but yet so removed, that it was like traveling to a foreign land.

This, from a kid (me) who knows a thing or two about farming, having spent many a day in my younger years on my grandpa’s farm during summer vacation and, in later years when in college, spent a number of long weekends on the farm of my favorite professor, where we killed, feathered, dressed, and eventually ate both wild and domestic turkey.

But, I digress. Because, the other thought that I had as I drove to Steve’s farm was the TED video of Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame. If you’ve never seen the Dirty Jobs program on the Discovery channel, I encourage you to check it out sometime. But, even if you haven’t, you’ll enjoy Mike’s TED talk.

While it’s entertaining in its own right, as a pleasant example of good story-telling, the message in the talk that especially resonated with me is the following: innovation is wonderful, but without imitation, it’s nothing.

Yes, the genius of the invention that is Apple’s iPhone or Nintendo’s Wii is something marvelous to behold, but lacking the legions of laborers, factories, processes and task repetition required to produce the millions of circuit boards and packing boxes, we’d never be able to enjoy their ingenuity.

In this same way, at a more basic level of Maslow’s hierarchy of human need, I enjoyed a day of simple, dusty, hot work and good conversation at my brother-in-law’s chicken farm, supervising the picking and packing of thousands of eggs that flow into the global food supply chain.

And my reward?  Let’s just say that the charcoal, t-bone steak dinner, washed down with ample servings of Shiner and Merlot, sitting in the cool breeze under a beautiful, clear Texas evening, wasn’t a bad way to wind down the week.

Forget the corporate paintball retreat; if you want an experience to knock you off your normal routine, I highly recommend a day at the chicken farm.

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