• Purpose and Passion: Faith. Family. Farm.

    by Lance Gunkel CFP® CFA Managing Director | March 27, 2019

    Living a life driven by your passions is easier said than done. As a youngster I can recall rolling my eyes every time I heard someone pass along the advice to “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Sure! Easier said than done, I thought.

    In working with many clients, I’ve witnessed what happens when someone focuses his or her time and attention on passionate pursuits; it can bring happiness, fulfillment, and joy.

    Our clients sometimes use retirement as a time to refocus their energy on activities they enjoy and that have meaning instead of a job that simply brings a paycheck. Personally, I’m inspired when I see our clients retire TO something rather than retire FROM something.

    One inspirational example of someone who has retired TO something comes from Jason Brown, who at one time was the highest paid center in the National Football League. He had a five-year contract with the St. Louis Rams worth $37.5 million. He used his NFL money to buy a 12,000 square foot home for his family, and he filled it with many material things to show outsiders that he was living the dream.

    After a couple of years, he felt exhausted and empty. He prayed and asked what he was supposed to do with his life, and the answer was surprising – Jason decided to become a farmer. He was troubled to think that there were hungry people living close to him, and he had read that 200,000 children in his home state did not know when or where they would get their next meal.

    Walking away from a football career, Jason bought a 1,000 acre farm in Louisburg, North Carolina, and brought along his wife and six kids. Jason made a promise: “God, whatever land you bless us with…we’re going to give to our community the first fruits of everything – whatever is produced.” This promise became First Fruits Farm.

    Jason knew nothing about farming, so he first turned to YouTube to learn. He has also received helpful tips from neighbors. He hopes to harvest 300,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to donate to local food pantries. Jason wants to share the love of God through hunger relief in North Carolina and show others the benefits of a life in agriculture. To this end, First Fruits Farm has outreach programs for youth, providing them with a chance to become involved in agriculture on a firsthand basis.

    It was quite a life-altering decision to move from a high-paying NFL career to a life as a newbie farmer providing for his community. However, Jason says he goes to bed with a peace of mind that he never had previously.

    Jason is a great example of the good things that can happen when someone leaves behind a job that is not fulfilling, regardless of how “perfect” it appears to others. Instead, we can seek those opportunities that both bring us joy and give us the ability to feel that same peace of mind that has come to Jason.

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