Farmers are eternal optimists.

In the quiet months of winter, we think to ourselves, “This will be the year.”

We reflect back to the summer months, when our fields were brimming with crops and before the plants died back into the earth. We mull over our mistakes, all the tasks we wish we had accomplished. We remember the weeds that consumed the carrots, the beans we could not harvest in time, the lettuce we could not keep watered. We are reminded of sleepless nights worrying about disease and pests, and the long days with their endless lists of tasks. We again recall the flower variety we wish we had tried or the innovative growing experiment we dropped when the busy months arrived.

As we look ahead to the new season unfolding in front of us, the challenges from the year past are erased. In our mind’s eye, we see only pristine fields, every row is weeded, every crop irrigated. The plants are heavy with fruit ready to be harvested, which we will always bring in on time. There is no rushing, no stress. We will have space for other parts of our lives: family, friends, hobbies. We are living in an Instagram post of a perpetual golden hour and a grinning farmer.

Spring is always full of hope.

Then, once more, we find ourselves in July. Peak sunlight and peak growth. We are sprinting. The mosquitoes are humming in our ears, biting our sweaty brows. Somehow, overnight, the weeds have doubled in size, threatening to overtake the beets, and the eggplant has all been devoured by Colorado Potato Beetle. The walk-in cooler is broken, the farmstand has no lettuce, we are down an employee. It has not rained in weeks.

We plow onward, trying to keep up with a treadmill set at a speed slightly too fast and lacking an emergency brake. We accomplish what we can and let go of what we cannot. We learn to not dwell on the losses; a shrug, a shake of the head, a “better luck next year.” Then we turn, hopeful, to the next crop.

What keeps us going, season after season, year after year, are the successes, both small and large. It is the times when our winter dreaming unfolds exactly as we had envisioned. And for a moment, sometimes the briefest of moments, we have won. It is a particularly robust carrot crop or a perfectly-timed greens planting. It is the sweet taste of a summertime watermelon, just off the vine. It is the pest that has been thwarted. It is the new tool that functions perfectly.

These successes, the feeling of getting something right, of evolving, is what keeps us coming back for more. In these moments, our failures fade away and we again remember why we farm. We lift our heads and notice the beautiful light on the fields, and the way the butterflies dance through our flowers.

The reflection of success is so powerful, it is all we see when faced with a new season, even when coming off a particularly challenging one.

We have all had our bad years, but with luck and some skill, the successes outnumber the failures. There is always something that can be improved upon. A triumph one year may be a failure the next; there are simply too many factors beyond our control. This leaves us with an infinite number of ways to be successful, and we are always striving to improve.

Thus is the nature of farming.