The Farm Comes First
This article was was originally written for the April edition of Hiline FArm and Ranch.
“The Farm comes first.”
“Eat, sleep, Farm.”
“I can't commit to anything, because I'll probably have to be doing something on the farm.”
“My farmer has no hobbies or outside interests. All he does is farm.”
How many times have you heard, or made statements like these?
I know I've made them! And I hear them often too! ;0)
In our culture we are very private, hard-working, and many of us sleep, eat and breathe farming and ranching.
When that happens it is easy to let that become such an all-encompassing focus that we lose sight of other things that help build us up and grow as people. Hobbies become nonexistent, and community and friend interactions are limited because "the farm comes first".
But within a culture where the farm or the ranch comes first, health and the care of oneself comes second.
Self care is easily maintained when things are ok. But, when things get tough, and dairy prices are so low that dairy farms are closing, and wheat farmers are struggling to find ways to diversify, and the relationship with the bank is faltering, this is when the practice of taking care of oneself becomes so so important!
If all you have to fall back on is the farm or the ranch and all of a sudden that ceases to exist, and you can't imagine doing anything else besides that, that's when thoughts of suicide become reality or become a part of the way a person talks or thinks.
Rural agricultural folks are very private, proud people, but we must realize that we've got to take care of ourselves! We also must take care of our loved ones who may be in the shoes of a “single minded, all-encompassing focus”. The conversations will be uncomfortable, but they must be had! If we don't make self-care a priority it is likely that suicide and depression is going to continue to increase in our communities.
Self-care and seeking help at, or before you or your loved ones’ lowest point, needs to be considered, applauded and pursued. We need to not only consider ourselves and our own family, but consider our neighbors and fellow folks in our Ag community!
One of the things our rural communities do really well, is band together to help a neighbor, friend or family when they are struggling. There is story after story where somebody was injured or somebody passed away and neighbors and friends came from near and far to help complete harvest or carry-on and complete that Year’s work for the farming/ranching family.
Let's take that same wonderful quality, apply it to ourselves, invest in ourselves and each other so that our own sustainability leads to the sustainability of our families, our farms/ranches, and agriculture. Remember! Sustainability isn't just about the environment or our operations, but also ourselves! We need to be able to sustainably continue in our Ag operations! We must take care of ourselves, outside of the money we make, the tradition we carry on, and the nuts and bolts of farming and ranching.
This begs the question, “what is ‘self-care’ or ‘care of self’?" And "what does it actually look like for me?”
There's really no easy answer for that.
Self-care for each individual is going to look completely different. For one person it may be simply getting time by themselves fixing fence. For another it might be making sure to get that yearly physical. For another it might just simply be being able to spend a night in a hotel room all by themselves without being needed during the night by their young children. For another it might be counseling. For another it might be creating a consistent weekly practice of journaling, meditation, and Bible study. For another it might be meeting up with friends and making a point to have that face-to-face connection.
I can't tell you what self-care is going to look like for you, but what I can offer is some of the things you need to recognize as “red flags” or warning signs that you need to make self-care more of a priority.
Here are some red flags and warning signs that you need to put more effort into self-care!
Trouble sleeping. Spinning thoughts. Stress. Overwhelm. Not feeling like yourself. Feeling lost. Taking an inventory of your life or your day-to-day activities and realizing that you have no hobbies, you haven't interacted with friends for quite a while, or you can't remember the last time you and your spouse had a date night.
Wow! If that list isn't a bit convicting, I don't know what is!
So, start taking inventory; Start having conversations around the subject about personal sustainability and self-care; Start gathering your courage and have those hard conversations!
I hope this encourages you and spurs you towards finding a balance between "The farm coming first" and caring for yourself.
Sometimes it's hard to come up with ideas for self-care that will fit into the "in between moments".
If you'd like some ideas, feel free to follow this link for 30+ ideas for self-care!