By serving others, fourth-generation Blackwell farmer Tom Cannon finds peace and joy in the middle of his trials on the farm.
Upon a quick examination of Tom Cannon’s heritage, one would easily discover a deep-rooted tenacity engrained in each generation of his family tree.
As an 18-year-old, his great-grandmother founded his family’s farm near Blackwell by staking claim in some north central Oklahoma soil just a few years after the land run. She dealt with all sorts of hardships as she worked and cared for the land long before the luxuries of modern agricultural production.
“(The family) was just a strong, fiercely independent group. And that really that tradition carries on even into today,” Tom said.
Though the seemingly never ending challenges Tom faces on the farm today have nearly broken him, he’s proven that same resolve flows deep through his veins, too.
Back in 2011, during the middle of a devastating drought, he was struggling to even produce a crop like many other farmers across the state.
The burden of maintaining his family’s farm weighed heavily on his mind throughout the heat of a dry summer.
“There’s an intimacy that we have with our farms, too, that other businesses don’t have,” he said. “There’s a deep and personal intimacy with something that you’ve grown up with. And it’s not inanimate, it’s a living thing and it’s cared for you, it’s put food on the table for you, it’s bought your jeans, it’s put your kids in school, it’s done all that for you. And then when that failure happens, it’s tough.”
One day that summer, the frustration nearly got to him after repeatedly fighting a center pivot that continued to fail. He found himself driving down a dirt road traveling at 90 miles per hour. As he came up to a bridge, a dark thought crossed his mind.
“With a one-inch move on my steering wheel, it could’ve all been over,” he said.
Fortunately, something in Tom prevented him from following through on that thought. He instead pulled off through a neighbor’s field and ended up down near a river bed.
“I parked back in the bend of a river where nobody could see me, and just sat there and prayed for at least an hour,” he said.
With help from his faith, his wife and a little time away from everything, Tom eventually was able to find reprieve.
Those few moments helped shape who he is today.
“That’s the key to having peace and joy in the middle of the storm is to put others first.”
– TOM CANNON
Tom soon found that the best way for him to find relief from his depression and stress was to lose himself in service to others.
He serves in the youth ministry at his local church, which enables him to help teenagers in his community deal with the same types of depression, anxiety and mental health struggles.
“The way I get out of (depression) is going into service,” Tom said. “You’ve got to think of others. That’s the key to having peace and joy in the middle of the storm is to put others first.”
He also encourages others who are dealing with depression or stress to share it with a trusted family member or friend.
“You’ve got to look in the mirror and say, ‘How are you doing?’ And be honest with yourself, don’t hide it,” he said. “To do that takes a level of transparency with yourself, too, that you’re not going to hide this until it’s too late.”
And he wants fellow farmers and ranchers to know they are not alone in their struggles.
“Everybody has (stress) and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “You’ve got to put light on it. Don’t stay alone and in the dark. Put light on it. Expose it for what it is and get some help. The first place I’d look for it is your neighbor that you trust or a friend that you trust. You’ve got to talk it out and speak it out.
“The more light you shine on a mental health problem, the quicker it is going to get fixed.”