Eliminating ‘I can’t’ from my vocabulary helped me grow as a farmer


One of the first life lessons I learned from My Forever, Matt, when we were married 7.5 years ago is to eradicate “I can’t” from my vocabulary.

It’s perfectly acceptable to alternate with “I need help” or “I’m having difficulty,” but never say, “I can’t.”

As a farmer, as well as a farmer’s wife, there’s a lot of challenges we deal with. A lot of situations arise that seem impossible. However, they aren’t. This too shall pass. Something will happen.


For example, on our operation we rotationally graze. We all have our own groups of cows that we are in charge of. That means I’m moving cattle by myself a lot. The mineral has to go with them to their new paddock, of course. We use plastic barrels screwed to an old truck tire for most of our feeders. They are heavy by themselves, let alone with 50 to 100 pounds of mineral in them. Matt throws them effortlessly on the four-wheeler. My body isn’t going to do that without breaking quickly. But he would be so frustrated if he had to always move the feeders for me.

One day, I noticed he left a tow strap on the pickup. I wrapped it around the mineral feeder and tied it on to the four-wheeler and pulled it across the grass to the next paddock. I’ve been moving them the same way ever since. My body isn’t being abused, Matt isn’t having to move feeders, I don’t have to bring the pickup into the pasture, and everybody is happy!

Whether it’s using a piece of equipment, unscrewing a bolt, or cooking dinner, don’t use “can’t.” You can! It might take some out-of-the-box thinking, but I’m confident you can do whatever it is that you need to! (You don’t have to do it on your own. Maybe the out of the box thinking to turn your “can’t” in to a “can” is that you need help! Don’t be afraid to ask for help!)

Growing up, we were given detailed directions with almost everything we did. Each task was done the way my parents wanted it done. That’s what I was used to. Then I married a man who says, “Here’s what needs done. Go do it.” He doesn’t articulate how he wants it done — he just wants it done. This has led to so many breakthroughs for me to be creative and imaginative in tricky situations.


Necessity is the mother of invention. On the farm we have thousands of things happening throughout the day. That means a lot can go wrong. Choosing your attitude through these challenges can change not just your day, but your entire life.

I might have a tendency to get things stuck … maybe. OK, I do, I confess. We use our biggest tractor on a lot of our equipment. I got stuck spreading fertilizer with it. Remember, it’s our biggest tractor. We have nothing bigger to pull it out with. To add insult to injury, it’s always along a super busy road. You know how that goes. Then because it’s not bad enough, Matt is busy and can’t get to it right away. Which means I’m stuck, literally, with a tractor that is stuck with no ride to go anywhere.

I can sit there waiting for him or figure something else out.

So because this situation can’t get much worse and I’m probably not going to tear anything up, and if I do, I’m married to a man who can literally fix anything, I try figuring something out. I unhook the spreader from the tractor. (I didn’t have to put the jack down because I was so deep in mud). Then with a wing and prayer, I begged the tractor to pull itself out. Which it did! Thank goodness! Matt showed up about that time and, after taking a few photos to use against me as blackmail later (kidding!), we hooked enough chains together to go from the tractor (now on dry ground) to the spreader (not on dry ground). Then we pulled it out enough that we could get the tractor hooked back on. Then I went back to spreading. And life moved on.

Here’s the thing … I’m not perfect. I work several hours a day, several days a week, several weeks a year. I do a lot of stuff throughout this time. I’m going to screw up sometimes. And you are too. Farmers have a tendency to get a little angry when things don’t go right. Understand that mess ups, breakdowns and life is going to happen. I’m so thrilled that I’m married to somebody who doesn’t make a big deal out of my screwups. He just goes to work figuring out how to fix it.

One of the biggest blessings Matt has given me is the confidence to know that I can do things I never thought I could do simply because of eradicating, “I can’t” and just doing it. And you can too!


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married in to another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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