Have you ever had inspiration strike at just the right moment? I can recall a few instances when this happened for me, both personally and professionally. 

It’s those moments of revelation that shape values and define character. Those instances also present risk and often challenge conventional thinking. Self-doubt creeps in and we second-guess a decision or judgment. 

But the ability to overcome those obstacles is what builds a lasting legacy of inspiration for others. Farmers are no strangers to innovation and I’ve been fortunate to meet many who, both by intent and by accident, have been originators of truly unique methods. 

So it was especially rewarding to have the opportunity this fall to visit a historical landmark in Herndon, Ky., where on a sixth-of-an-acre of land, the first no-till seeds were planted in 1962. 

Many of you may know the story of Harry Young, who is credited with planting the first commercial no-till acres on a corner plot of a well-traveled highway in southern Kentucky. During our recent visit to the site with Harry’s son John, and grandson, Alex, they humbly shared some personal perspective on the origins of the practice, including the early challenges. 

“The reason my dad tried no-till wasn’t to be different. It was to be more efficient…” — John Young

The most imposing obstacles being a lack of equipment to properly no-till along with skepticism from within the Young family that the practice was worthwhile.

“The first crop was planted with an old modified 2-row planter my dad customized that had once been pulled by mules because there was no such thing as a no-till planter,” John Young explains. “Aside from the lack of equipment, the greatest challenge was convincing my uncle and grandfather, that no-till would work. There was some friction as a result, but my dad was persistent and followed through on his plan.”

As I stood there listening to the Youngs, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had Harry succumbed to the critics, or abandoned the engineering effort to fabricate the first no-till planter?

Both John and Alex note that there was no guarantee no-till would work, but that potential embarrassment was in no way a barrier to experimentation. This fall, that first plot of no-tilled land yielded about 200 bushels per acre of corn. 

And while not a record-breaking total, John believes that had his father not ceased intensive tillage on those acres 57 years ago, erosion would have taken its toll on both soil quality and yields over that time.

“The reason my dad tried no-till wasn’t to be different,” John says. “It was to be more efficient.”

As we close out 2019, take time to reflect on those ‘what if’ moments and whether you took the initiative to act on inspiration or dismissed it.