Lyman grew up on one of the largest dairy farms in Montana during
World War II. Since his mother and father were busy all day with
milking cows, he was raised primarily by his grandparents. For “day
care,” grandma sent him out into the garden to collect ladybugs.
thought it was the Garden of Eden. I loved it! I’d put my collection
in a jar, and at the end of the day, we’d dump them out and
count them, then turn them loose again. You could tell how healthy
the garden was by the number of ladybugs.” On a good day, he’d
bring in as many as 125.
came a time, though, when Lyman didn’t give a hoot about ladybugs,
much less what they could tell him about his 50-yard-by-50-yard
garden. After he left the farm to go to Montana State for his degree
in agriculture, he learned about “better living through chemistry.” He became a staunch advocate of chemical farming, convincing his
parents to let him convert their organic farm into the modern agriculturist’s
dream. Dismissing his father’s concerns as old fashioned, Lyman
was on his way. Soon after, he remembers, he wrote a check for $1
million, and when it didn’t bounce, he thought, “I’ve
really arrived. Im the Donald Trump of agriculture!” Until 1979, he believed he was it, the new and improved Farmer John,
on top of the world.
suddenly, he found himself paralyzed from the waist down.