Farming is hard.
So hard in fact that other people think we are absolutely nuts to do what we do. Who else works a regular 40hr, full-time job to then come home and put in another 4-6 hrs of work doing something that at times is completely unrewarding, emotionally debilitating and totally gut wrenching? Who else takes that 40hr paycheck and pours every damn last penny of it back into something that doesn't actually guarantee a payout... unless you quit, walk out and sell it all? Makes us sound pretty nuts when I put it that way, eh.
Farming. I love it, but right at this moment... it is so damn heavy.
Today we started harvesting our soybeans. I'm not going to go into details, but let's put it this way: things aren't turning out quite like they should. The fields are exhausted & rough, the weed load is heavy, moisture levels are high... basically its just a big cluster-fuck( 'cuse my language, if you will). I had a sick chicken die and there's a sick lamb in the barn who doesn't look like he's going to pull through. We are scrambling to find a solution to house some chickens we recently acquired, but with our current limited budget due to my not working it certainly puts a clamp on options. We've got a ton of work to do before the snow flies, have a million ideas bouncing around for the future and yet, honestly have really no idea what 2021 looks like as we hover, poised on the brink of a 'shit or get off the pot' situation with just about everything involving 'The Farm'.
And it is really, really heavy.
I'm sure this is the part where I'm supposed to say, "It would be so easy to just walk away, cash in our chips and move on", but I can't. Never in a million years. That is just simply not an option. Sure, David and I get mad at situations and in those moments say to each other and the collective universe, "Let's Quit!", but never has a more empty threat been uttered. There is no quitting when the desire is so, so strong. When this is our life. We want to do this. We want this for our kids. We want this for our grandkids. We want every success, every trial and yes, every failure because it all works into the tapestry of what it is to be a steward of the land, of livestock and of something so much bigger than ourselves.
Farming is heavy.
It weighs on the mind, the body and the heart. There are lots of resources and supports for mental health in the agricultural industry that now exist because we as an industry, a way of life, are beginning to open up and acknowledge 'the heavy'. Farming can be such a collective experience and yet at the same time, incredibly isolating as we all look for the reasons why something failed, or an animal died. We want to be able to lay some blame, often upon ourselves, because that just sort seems what needs to happen and I think gives justification to that which we ultimately cannot control. Sure, people make mistakes and yeah, blame can be laid. But honestly, a lot of the time shit happens that we don't have a whole lot of control over or simply didn't have the resources available to do it 'right' when it needed to be done. We try, we fail, and in that failure the load gets heavier.
So how do we get through? In our case, give thanks for the best damn friends anyone could ask for. Those friends, who when you send them a text and say that today was shite on the farm they show up to drink scotch, beers or ciders in the garage while helping to split garlic, simply because they can and they know you just need them. Those friends who, even though you haven't chatted for ages, check in and let you know they're thinking of you and understand that the farm comes first, and although we may say we need to get together when things slow down, know that there is no 'slow down' and its nothing about them... its the farm. Those friends who won't accept your apologies for being late or missing an event, but rather want to see those new lambs, make cute posts about the cows on their Instagram pages and continually praise you, lift you up and let you know that ya, its all hard but they see what we are doing, and they love us unconditionally for it. Those friends who brag about you to their friends and family when they share the fruits of your labors. Those friends...
Not every farmer has those friends, but thankfully David and I do. I'm not going to name you all, but please know we could not do this without you. You make us feel real, you make us feel proud and you make us feel that even when everything is going wrong, the cards are on the table and we are all-in on a losing hand, we've still got a fighting chance. So, thank you.
In parting on this post I'd like to say to my fellow farmers who are feeling the 'heavy' this fall season: we see you. The load is heavy, but please don't try to carry it alone. This life is not easy and the weight of the responsibilities we carry for our families, our communities and our collective futures is immeasurable. Reach out to those friends who will build you up, strengthen your resolve and help push through the hard. If it is too much, know that you are not alone, there are those around you who will listen and help to carry the load, however heavy it may be.
They've always said "Many hands make light work"... perhaps its time we really started to take that to heart.
For our farming friends: If you or a family member is struggling this harvest season, please know that we are just a text or phone call away and will help in whatever way we can.
For 'bigger help', here is a link to the OMAFRA resources to support mental health: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/mental-health.htm