Last Saturday I traveled to a family Thanksgiving gathering with our four little turkeys. Brett didn’t go along. It was a perfect day for harvesting, and those have been hard to come by the past few weeks. And it’s getting to be a critical time in the season. Harvest has been delayed due to frequent snows and rains over the past month and started late because of the extreme wet spring that pushed planting 4-6 weeks later than normal. This is just one of example of the many times Brett and other farmers must make work decisions they would rather not have to make.
Of course tons of people in many professions have to work on weekends, nights, holidays. But often people working during those times have a scheduled shift and their job may be dependent on showing up for their shift. Even if a person would choose to be somewhere besides work if they could, they can’t. So the emotional attachment to the decision is minimal. In a sense it’s a “no-brainer” move. You just have to go. Period.
Many farmers, like my husband, are self employed business owners and operators. They are responsible for managing their business (the farm) and doing the work that needs to be done. But that work doesn’t happen on a set schedule. They don’t have a specific shift or set hours.
On the plus side this means farmers have the flexibility to leave work “mid shift” to do something they want or need to do, like catch a child’s ball game or attend an important doctor’s appointment with a family member. But anytime they stop, the work continues to build. When they take a break, they do so knowing that time must be made up. This is especially true at times of the year when getting something done is critical and time sensitive. Sort of like getting an article published on time for a journalist or meeting a project deadline for an advertising agent.
The downside is that farmers often have to make tough decisions when it comes to work versus everything else in their life. How do you decide what things to miss and when to break from work? It’s a lot of pressure to be the one making those decisions! When it comes to things that are important to you and members of your family, that can be a stressful choice that leads to feelings of guilt or frustration. That’s why I’ve found it’s important to work with him to make those decisions and be supportive of what we decide.
This situation certainly isn’t unique to farming alone, but when compiled with many other factors it’s one of the things that makes farming different from virtually any other type of career.
Brett would have been thrilled if harvest were complete and he could have gone along without the looming pressure of getting our crops harvested. But at times being a farmer means making those tough calls to be sure the work gets done and our family can continue farming.