Farmer as Creative


It’s easy to think that science and engineering are devoid of an appreciation for aesthetics. We seem overly focused on results, with little interest in the human dimension of our creations. Indeed, that’s the stereotype; but like all stereotypes, it has very little basis in reality. People in technical fields are still people, and they can still appreciate beauty. Often, however, that beauty is found in different places, such as: in effective, efficient design; in elegant, simple solutions; and in clever and innovative responses (the sort that make you go “oh, that’s neat!”). In science and engineering, beauty is found in function first, then in form. It’s no use having something pretty if it doesn’t accomplish the goal…

This philosophy applies to farming, too. Having a pretty tool that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do isn’t much help. Joe Trumpey explored this idea, in an exhibition titled “Farmer as Creative,” which opened on October 21, hosted at the Work Gallery in Ann Arbor. He explored the many ways farmers design new tools and processes to accomplish tasks and achieve their broader goals, combining function and ethics to improve soil health or water quality, or breed sounder livestock lines.


Accompanied by live music and delicious food, visitors wandered through the exhibit, exploring the many innovative ways farmers apply creativity to their craft. Dried plants and articles about farmers and their tools decorated the walls, and several tools had been set up for people to try. Tillers International, a nonprofit organization based in Scotts, MI, had a manual hay baler with plenty of hay (clever, farming out work to volunteers!). There was a rope making machine made from a hay rake and water pump parts, and people were encouraged to make their own jump ropes. Friends of mine have made rope by hand before and can attest just how frustrating and mind-numbing it is – this looked like a much easier method. There was also a corn sheller, which was very popular: there was plenty of dried corn to test it on, and the machine stripped the kernels off within seconds.


Local fermented foods company The Brinery (“Stimulate Your Inner Economy!”) had a fermentation petting zoo, allowing people to see, touch, and smell their products at various stages. With food available in packages at the grocery store, it’s easy to forget where it comes from – and to miss out on fun new foods like sauerkraut and kimchi! There was a new design for a beehive, next to a traditional terracotta beehive. One display involved Native American farm implements, showing that this is a process that has gone on since farming itself was first invented.

The attendees were a diverse bunch: college students, farmers, wandering Ann Arbor residents drawn in by the music, and families with children. The tool demonstrations were a big hit with kids, who were more than happy to lend a hand on the enormous piles of corn and hay. Several farmers were on hand to talk about what they do and to explain the exhibits, and there were way more possibilities for exhibits than there was room available in the building. Articles on the walls described old tools being repurposed (an old plow being used as a berry planter), a portable “sugar shack” for making maple syrup, a calf being fitted with artificial legs, and farmers using oxen to plow fields.


Farmers’ creativity spans more than new tools: it also includes development of new processes. From preservation methods like canning and fermentation, to a u-pick garden that prices vegetables by the peck, to community gardens sprouting up across the country, farmers are finding new business models and ways to reach their customers.


There were many more innovative ideas than could be covered in this exhibit. Websites like Farm Show magazine and (an open source community for resilient agriculture) collect new tools and processes so others can see and use them too. The displays of creativity shown here were truly impressive – definitely enough to make this engineer go “oh, that’s neat!” repeatedly! It’s easy to think that farming just involves putting seeds in the ground, watering occasionally, and then harvesting, but obviously it’s much more complicated than that. As Trumpey explains, “farmers are a tool savvy, process oriented, iteration aware, focused group of problem solvers.” Seeing this exhibit proved once again that efficient, effective design has its own beauty, and that you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate art in its myriad forms.






I’ve been working for various large corporations since 2009. Fairly early on, I noticed the tendency for corporate employees to use (often mangled) cliched or downright nonsensical phrases in their meetings. I heard so many that I started collecting them, and called them “corporatisms”. The list has become quite long over the years…here is the current version. I didn’t include acronyms, though…then my list would become a book!

Keep on keepin’ on
Kick the can down the road
Deep dive
Low hanging fruit
The well’s not dry
Kid in a candy store
Rob Peter to pay Paul
On board
Touch base
“there’s been a lot going on and a lot happening”
Action items
It is what it is
“SOP Development SOP” (the Standard Operating Procedure for developing Standard Operating Procedures)
“The big fish on the line”
Do what we say, say what we do
Get the right parties around the table
We have two plans: we have a plan A, and a plan B in this scenario.
Keep pushing
Dead in the water
Turn a blind eye
Feet to the fire
Heads up
Out the door
Breathing room
Winging it
Correct me if I’m wrong
Pieces and parts
This project is a go
Jump on it
Carve out some time
Out the door
Business as usual
Head above water
Let’s discuss this offline
Paint us into a corner
Table it
Shelve it
Sidebar that question
Escalate it
Correct me if I’m wrong
Buy off
“once we consense” (as in consensus), also “we’ve consensed”
Get it off top dead center (ah, car people)
Task force
When we were trying to skin the cat
Water over the dam
The target is still the target
Another feather in the cap (used as “straw that broke the camel’s back”)
Just to compare things apples to apples and side by side
It’s 9 of one, 6 or half dozen of another
No skin off our neck
Stab yourself in the foot
Cross the I, dot the t
“Root cause” used as a verb
The juice isn’t worth the squeeze
They want the fig leaf


Heard any good corporatisms lately?


  • H

Herzlich Willkommen!


I’m Hannah, and this is my blog. I’m a passionate lifelong learner and over the course of my many, constant investigations I find lots of cool stuff which I think should be shared with the world. I’ll be posting about new things I’ve learned (like scientific studies, observations about human nature, techniques, new skills, recipes, fun words, etc…) and things I’m trying to learn (like – currently – German, and public speaking, and fighting with a glaive).

First, a little bit about me. I’m 23 and a Michigan native. I love reading, swordfighting, rock climbing, board games, computer games, logic puzzles, engineering, sustainability, languages, travel, and tea. I habitually over-schedule my personal life, mostly because I have a tendency to want to do ALL THE THINGS at once. I am at the same time sad that I will never be able to learn everything I want to learn, and happy because that means I will never run out of new challenges. Luckily this means I will have lots of topics to cover here.

So, welcome, and enjoy!


– H