Somebody asked me, why “ag-at-large” why not “ag at large” without the hyphens.

That’s complicated. First, I’m doing it to avoid a conflict with anyone else out there with an “ag at large” or “ag at-large” moniker. Also, I’m told that the individual words are more likely to stand out in a Google search, or something like that.

There’s another reason for hyphens and it has to do with my wife.

A bit of background. My wife, Barbara Pates, and I have a new side business that has hyphens, too. It’s called Yellow-Brick Productions at  “yellow-brick.com” It’s really Barb’s thing, but I’m helping her occasionally. It’s a “personal history”  deal, in which she helps people save their family stories with a kind of documentary treatment. These are people who wouldn’t necessarily make the news.  Barb is a former brand manager for a sporting goods retailer, and she chose the name of that company – with hyphens – because that’s the way you often see people’s lives summarized on a tombstone: “Here lies JOE BLOW, 1947-20XX.”

Notice the hyphen. Barb is fond of saying (I wonder if she isn’t quoting someone else) that the hyphen is what happens between birth and death.

One of our interests with yellow-brick is something called an “ethical will.”

What’s that? That’s a sort of statement you make that’s opened like a will at your death. It tells your survivors something specific about how you feel about them or a specific set of values you want to pass along to them. There’s an article about this concept in the March 2007  “Town & Country” magazine (pgs. 146-147), featuring Dr. Barry K. Baines, a Minneapolis physician and a hospice director who oversees the web site: ethicalwill.com. Baines has written a book on the topic, “Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper. (Perseus Books Group, 2002).

I wonder if this kind of will isn’t a good idea for farmers. There are some true community leaders who have some deep thoughts to share with the next generation. I’ve interviewed a few of these giants in the past year for Agweek, and have written about some of them in my ag-at-large column. These folks aren’t perfect, but they’re often wise. I’ve found, especially, that when people get a few miles on them they quite often have some wisdom to share.

So, if you’re a farmer, I challenge you to get the equipment ready first before planting. And, if you’re sitting around going crazy, take some time to write your values down and philosophize for posterity.

Or wait until just before or after spraying.

Or maybe make it a winter project next year.

 In any case, here’s hoping life is going well in the middle of your hyphen.