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Published March 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Dr. Farmer reflects on years of column writing

I can’t believe I am doing this. I am writing my last column. Since January 1984, I have had this obligation to write for the public every week.

By: By Val Farmer, INFORUM

I can’t believe I am doing this. I am writing my last column. Since January 1984, I have had this obligation to write for the public every week.

What are my feelings about ending a weekly column that has been an ingrained part of my life for 28 years? It is hard to say what it will be like to not have something until you don’t have it. I will probably know better two months from now than I will today. But I can guess.

What I won’t miss

- I won’t miss the incessant weekly pressure and responsibility to have something to say that is worthy of the space and the expectations of the readers. The column has been a beneficent tyrant, an ever-present reality that cannot be ignored. It takes thought, energy, planning and preparation. It requires work – hard work.

- The column has been an obstacle for our family life in terms of divided attention. It has been a priority that can’t be ignored or disputed as much as I or my wife would like it otherwise – something like farming.

- I am bothered by the occasional negative comment or criticism from a reader who has taken offense to something I have written or where I have caused pain. It is complicated. If I wasn’t disturbing the status quo, I probably wasn’t being effective.

But sometimes I am reminded that I didn’t tell the other side of the story or that there was more to say that didn’t get said. Where I have disappointed readers, it stops me in my tracks and helps me realize the power words have and that I am not always right or perfect.

What I will miss

- I enjoyed the challenge. I have appreciated the opportunity to have access to countless readers and to influence or stimulate them on topics that, in my opinion, were important. My agenda was to tell the truth, to share a point a view that could or should make a difference in readers’ lives.

From my perspective as a clinical psychologist and my moral, spiritual perspective, I could see a lot of mistakes people were making in their lives. I could see forces in society and culture that were wrong and destructive. I wanted to call attention to those things – to make popular things that were good and make unpopular the things that were evil.

My voice wasn’t the only voice. I could join my voice with many others who are disturbed by the disintegration of marriage, family life and religious, cultural supports for happiness and well-being. It is hard to give up that kind of power for doing good in the world.

- I have tried to help a unique audience: rural readers from farms, ranches and small communities of the Midwest. They are special, and their love affair with their work, lifestyle, families, friends and neighbors is real. Their dilemmas, conflicts and challenges are also unique and I have had the privilege to address these concerns.

- I will miss the many friends I have made. What a great group of people I have had to associate with! I have been overwhelmed and awed by the impact of my writing for this segment of society.

I appreciated the speaking opportunities, counseling and farm family mediation work I have been able to do. My column gave me credibility and access to a counseling clientele that inspired and humbled me. Their hearts were good and their intentions noble – they just needed some tools to work with to unlock the love that was already there.

If in the course of my professional work, I have disappointed you, if I wasn’t enough or a good fit for what was needed, I apologize.

- I will miss the impact the column has had on my personal and family life. It has helped to provide a good living for our family.

The discipline of a weekly column has helped me create a huge volume of work that would never have happened otherwise. It is a legacy that has been recorded and may continue to benefit my family in unknown ways long after I am gone.

In order to write, I have had to learn. I reached out to many people for wisdom and inspiration. I learned from the people who wrote me, from those whom I have counseled and from professional colleagues and associates whose insights far surpassed my own. I have been blessed to be an information broker for others’ research, ideas, and wisdom.

Who benefited the most? I believe my column has helped me be a better husband, father, friend and neighbor. I hope that my children will regard my work as a blessing in their lives despite the drawbacks that only they would know and appreciate.

- Finally, I will miss the partnership with my wife, Darlene, in this endeavor. She wasn’t satisfied without me doing my best. Her criticisms were hard to bear, but on the mark and accurate. Early on she was merciless in cleaning out the psychological jargon that cropped up.

Her support made this column possible. She sacrificed to make sure my path was clear. Her insights and wisdom found their way into my writing. It has been a joint effort.

My life with her will be a new partnership, based around her language and family history skills. I hope to be able to be just as helpful to her as she has been to me.

There it is. The last typo has been corrected. Done! And now, on to a new life.


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website.

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