University of Minnesota Agriculture student Ruth Burke is spending this summer interning at a CSA farm called Cramer Organics of Delano, MN. Throughout the growing season, she’ll share weekly updates about the experience with readers of the Heavy Table.
Farm Journal 16: Not a 9-to-5 Job
Last week, I had to put my cat of 17 years down. His health had been failing over the last few months, and he had been in and out of the vet all last week before I made the final decision. Tigger was like family to me, so learning to live without him has been hard. My other cat has been lost without Tigger as well. This has translated into many sleepless nights due to her constant yowling. I’ve spent more money than I care to think about during these last two weeks, have gotten precious little sleep, and haven’t eaten very much.
What does any of this have to do with farming? It’s a reality check. Real life may intrude all it likes, but the produce will not pick itself, the weeds will not hoe themselves, and the pests will not kindly squash themselves for you. Even though I was tired and sad, I only took a couple of days off at the end of last week. I couldn’t justify leaving everyone else at the farm shorthanded because I wanted to mope at home. Losing even one person in a harvest crew can easily tack on another two hours of work for everyone else. I just didn’t want to do that to my coworkers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that my employers were cruel and forced me to work. Joey was incredibly understanding and would have given me plenty of time off from work this week, had I wanted it. However, over the weekend, I found myself contemplating my future in farming and what significance these last couple of weeks have had on that vision. Although there have been plenty of days where we have had to work long into the evening to get everything done, those days have been rare and I didn’t feel like a train wreck on them. I have realized that there are going to be times when I don’t feel like emerging from my bedroom, let alone from the house. However, a farm does not stand on ceremony; it keeps going. If you are tired, but storms are in the weather forecast, you will not be able to take the afternoon off.
If you are sick and can’t work, you have to make the extra effort of finding reliable workers to help you out and take care of the farm. And heaven forbid if you should want to take a vacation!
A farm, I have finally realized, is not a clock-in, clock-out job. It is a living, breathing organism of which you are a single (important) body part. If you do not participate in the functioning of that organism, it will keep going without you. But, without you, there will be many problems. A few of my friends have suggested that it is not healthy to neglect yourself on behalf of your farm, and I could not agree more. I’m not saying that you must slavishly devote your every waking moment, your every ounce of energy to your farm. However, your farm is as much a part of you as, say, your beloved family pet. You cannot ignore one in favor of the other and expect there to be no personal consequences. I am slowly beginning to see just how much of a balancing act farming really is. Unlike your typical 9 to 5 gig, you can’t leave this work at the office. Love it or hate it, it will always need to be accommodated when real life throws a wrench in the works.
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