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So everyone knows that farmers are workaholics who get up at the crack of dawn and work until the sun goes down and die at an early age (nowadays from cancer from all the pesticides). Benjamin Franklin taught us “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” And we have Algernon Sidney’s “God helps them that help themselves.”
Farmers can easily work themselves into burnout or death. Especially American farmers.
First off, Americans don’t pay what food is actually worth and it’s hard to find customers who don’t think that your prices are outrageous even when they’re just barely covering cost. Second, we have a culture of hard work in America (yes I know this is changing, but it is still there in the farmworld).
So this leads american farmers to work themselves into the grave. I wrote before about how I felt guilty when I wasn’t working and so I decided I would research the subject. Turns out there are farmers in Greece on this little island who are healthy, happy, live a super long time and don’t work excessively.
Ikaria is a gorgeous little island known for the high percentage of its population that lives over 100 years. In the 17th century, Joseph Georgirenes, the bishop of Ikaria, described: “The most commendable thing on this island is their air and water, both so healthful that people are very long-lived, it being an ordinary thing to see persons in it of 100 years of age.”
I love this guy’s suave, devil-may-care look, like he’s barely holding back a joke and he’s over 100!
These people get up when they get up, they don’t care that goats produce milk most efficiently between 5 and 7am. If they wake up at 9am then the goats get milked at 9am. Then they take a nap in the afternoon. A nap! I bet they don’t feel guilty. Here are 11 things the Ikarians do…that I’m going to start doing.
1) Plenty of rest: “Wake naturally, work in the garden, have a late lunch, take a nap.”
2) An herbal diet: “Many of the teas they consume are traditional Greek remedies.”
3) Very little sugar, white flour, or meat: “Low intake of saturated fats from meat and dairy was associated with lower risk of heart disease.” A doctor cites “the absence of sugar and white flour.”
4) Mediterranean diet: Olive oil, goat’s milk, wild greens, wine, and coffee are all cited for health benefits. “Subjects consumed about six times as many beans a day as Americans.”
5) No processed food: “Another health factor at work might be the unprocessed nature of the food they consume: as Trichopoulou observed, because islanders eat greens from their gardens and fields, they consume fewer pesticides and more nutrients.”
6) Regular napping: Taking at least three a week was found to correlate with a 37 percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.
7) Healthy sex lives after 65: “A preliminary study of Ikarian men between 65 and 100 that included the fact that 80 percent of them claimed to have sex regularly, and a quarter of that self-reported group said they were doing so with ‘good duration’ and ‘achievement.’”
8) Stay busy and involved: ”Social structure might turn out to be more important. In Sardinia, a cultural attitude that celebrated the elderly kept them engaged in the community and in extended-family homes until they were in their 100s. Studies have linked early retirement among some workers in industrialized economies to reduced life expectancy.”
9) Yes, exercise: “It’s hard to get through the day in Ikaria without walking up 20 hills.”
10) Little stress of any kind: Relaxed work and social cultures, little emphasis on time, and a caring community all get frequent mentions. For example, “You’re not likely to ever feel the existential pain of not belonging or even the simple stress of arriving late.” Or, “Even if you’re antisocial, you’ll never be entirely alone.”
11) “Mutually reinforcing” habits: “The big aha for me, having studied populations of the long-lived for nearly a decade, is how the factors that encourage longevity reinforce one another over the long term. For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible. … The power of such an environment lies in the mutually reinforcing relationships among lots of small nudges and default choices.”