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I have been going nonstop for the last month with barely a single day off. Unsurprisingly, today I’m sick.
It is very difficult to be a sick farmer. There are no substitutes, no sick days, if you ‘stay home’ from work, an animal or plant could die. You can’t take a day off.
The only thing you can do as a farmer is have a community of people who are willing and most importantly trained to help you out when things go bad. Ok there’s a few other things that can help too…
Keep it Simple
We farmers can struggle with letting our farm become too diverse. We get excited about farming and all the possibilities of farm income streams and we decide we want to have this breed of goat and five breeds of chickens and two breeds of turkeys and a garden with every possible plant in existence and we’re going to incubate eggs and we’re going to keep bees and and and and and…. And soon we are overwhelmed and barely keeping up.
Imagine how a friend or a farm sitter will feel when they come to help.
The truth is that if the farm operation gets too big, it is out of control and the moment you’re sick it’s going to fall apart. This is something I struggle with, staying focused amidst all the opportunities. Over the years I’ve learned that while farm diversity is great, I need to keep things simple. This ends up being better for business as well as easier for farm sitters.
Don’t let tasks build up
Another thing farmers always…always…do is put tasks off. The truth is there’s not always something that needs to be done on a farm. There’s always 500 somethings that need to be done. Farmers prioritize based on what the biggest emergency is that is going to cause the most damage/deaths/expenses and put the other things that need to be done off for a later date.
These tasks often build up and bite us in the butt later on when they become their own emergency. Remember that weak fence you put off fixing? Now the cows have trampled it down and are running through the desert. *facepalm emoji*
I guarantee the things that get put off become problems the day I’m sick.
This is an area I dream about and have, like above, put off stupidly. I have spent so many hours of my life pulling a hose around the ranch to water animals instead of just frigging buying some bigger water troughs and putting in PVC pipe to water the animals automatically.
This is kind of making me mad at myself. Keep an eye out for a post coming soon where I install automatic waterers.
Keep your farm environment from getting you sick
Now this needs to be a whole other article, but I’ll just keep it short. Farms can make people sick.
Even organic ones.
Dust is the biggest villain on a farm, both to animals and farmers. Grain dust is a big one, but dust in general on a farm contains molds, animal hair, insects, bacteria, even feces (ok especially feces c’mon let’s be honest here). Imagine breathing this in day in and day out.
Farmers have to take care not to expose themselves to dust and other pathogens that can easily make them sick, create allergies, autoimmune diseases and other issues. Keeping a farm clean, keeping the animals in good shape and of course keeping the farmer’s immune system up are key (but easier said than done).
Develop (and train) friendshipsFriends are the biggest asset a farmer has. Click To Tweet
Now I am not saying you should develop friendships solely for the sake of manipulating people into doing work for you. What I am saying, is that friendships are awesome and you can’t really farm without a community. I have had many times during my farm career where if I didn’t have a trustworthy friend who could step in, I don’t know what I would have done. I once had my horse buck me off and break my arm and a good friend came over to feed and milk for two entire months. That was a few years ago and now that I’m thinking about it, I still feel so grateful I might get her a present.
I have never developed a friendship with the goal in mind that this person might one day be a substitute farmer for me, but I’m not stupid either lol. If I have a friend who seems to particularly love the farm then heck yea I’m going to teach that person everything I can. If there’s ever a time that you can call them up and ask for help then awesome.
When I’m sick or have an emergency, I have a call list that I go down to ask for help. I know who is better at some things than at others and I call that person depending on what I need help with…and then if they’re busy, I thank them profusely and call the next person. I always tell them that I’m not upset if they say no as long as they’re not upset if I ask-and in my experience they’re happy to be asked.
I absolutely could not have a successful farm without my friends, family and farm tribe we’ve built together over the years.
When I first started farming, I couldn’t afford any paid help and depended strongly on my friends who I was truly and honestly grateful for. There was no manipulation or using, although sometimes they helped me so much I did feel like I was using them! Still, I think if you’re honestly appreciative then they honestly want to help. Plus since they likely don’t have a farm of their own, it’s a pretty cool experience for them. Kinduv a win-win.
Basically as a farmer, you have to prepare in advance as much as you can, but the real lifesaver when you’re sick is to have people you love and who love you back.