I'm inspired when people figure out a very simple solution to a complex problem.
The accompanying image is a picture of a farmer and his tractor. I imagine it's taken in Europe, perhaps Eastern Europe and during their lush green springs.
The old farmer in his 50s or 60s sits on a tractor, driving it down a street, perhaps on his way to get it repaired. There's a major problem: He's missing the front left wheel. Not a flat tire, but the entire wheel is gone -- just the axle spindle is showing. Obviously it needs repair. Perhaps there was a major farm accident, a wheel broke off and only the axle remains, leaving it impossible to drive into town to repair.
Now my imagination goes wild. I picture a farmer without a lot of resources. He can't bring a mechanic out to the farm, it's too expensive or one isn't readily available or they don't have the proper tools. (Remember, I imagine this as Eastern Europe, but it could have easily been the more remote parts of our Valley).
The challenge: how to get a three-wheel tractor to the repair shop. The farmer probably doesn't have a tractor trailer. That requires another set of resources -- not only a trailer, but also a truck big enough to pull the trailer.
Plus there's still the problem of a three-wheel tractor that lies broken in the barn yard or field -- it still would be nearly impossible to load it onto a trailer.
So the farmer and tractor remain stuck.
A farm couple used their ingenuity and all the resources available to them. They needed to find a way to find balance in their life. They needed to raise the front of the tractor so it could be driven.
The farm wife stands on the back of the tractor, opposite of the missing wheel. Her weight (she's a large lady) works as a counterbalance -- and the tractor is lifted upright and can be driven.
I admire this woman. She's not skinny and is valued -- she knows who she is and is proud of what she can do. She problem solves with her partner and they work as a team.
They demonstrate the innovation of a typical family farm where family really matters. They create their own rural leadership training program: how to cope with day-to-day life with limited resources. (This reminds me of bailing wire and duct tape solutions.)
Plus they add humor and good will to their predicament. They drive into town, proud of their solution, smiling and waving. They put a public face on the creative human capital that exists in our rural communities. They display a balanced lifestyle and achieve success when everyone plays roles with a sense of teamwork and cooperation.
I love witnessing low-tech and highly inventive solutions. We often forget the creative capacity people process to discover everyday solutions to real problems -- especially when folks understand their limitations and capitalize on their resources.
I wonder who came up with the ultimate solution? Perhaps it was the wife who knows how to create balance with her husband and the farm.
If it were me, in a typical male approach, I would have first tried using brute strength, machinery and equipment to muscle my way out of the problem. Then the farming partner, a wife, quietly works on the solution. She slowly positions and repositions herself, gently and smoothly finding a sweet spot solution to lift spirits.
To the untrained eye, this image looks like a mockery of farm folk. But to the farmer, it speaks of value: knowing yourself and the role of others in this partnership we call family farming.
The couple utilize their tactical advantage: a lightweight wife would not work in this situation. They also seem to demonstrate positive body images -- he, too, is not exactly slender. Together, they seem to be a good match, no need for couples therapy. The appear to love each other for who they are, not what they are not.
It does speak volumes about the importance of diversity -- in this case with size. You can be large and strong -- big need not imply unhealthy or lazy. And only with a type of body love can this couple publicly demonstrate their imaginative solution to the question: How do you drive a three-wheel tractor?
In the end, this is an anthem to real farm women. Large and in charge. Big, bold and beautiful. Everyday is a love your body day.
We can all learn from an old farm couple -- they seem content and happy with themselves. We should all be so fortunate.
Award-winning author and organic farmer David Mas Masumoto of Del Rey writes about the San Joaquin Valley and its people. He is author of new book Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land. Send email to him at