Friday, February 26, 2016

The Bad Asses of Farming

“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real bad asses”  Brene Brown, Rising Strong.   I love this quote.  I just finished this book and I love it!  This quote has got me thinking about all the bas asses I know, especially right now in farming. 

Milk prices are low, crop prices are low, and farmers are facing difficult financial times, yet again.  Seems like we “just” went through a rough patch not that long ago, basically every 3 years.  Traditionally, farmers have generations of history proving their stoic personalities.  During the Great Depression, the Farming Crisis of the 1980’s, every drought or flood, and every time the prices come down there are proud stories about how farmers tightened their boot straps once again and made it through.  As a group, farmers will be proud of how they made it through times like this, but I think they’re missing a key part of their successes.  What about the suffering and failure?  I see it happening more often, but maybe not enough: farmers being honest with themselves and others about how difficult times like now can be.  I’m not even talking about the financial woes or making the hard decisions about what is getting cut out of the budget.  I am referring to the emotional, physical, psychological, and mental stress that happens to these farm families during times like this.  I don’t think enough of us are honest about what other issues come from this intense stress and anxiety.  But to the bad asses that are honest, God bless you! 

I am blessed to have groups of great farming friends where we have a safe place to talk about the stress.  It is in these safe places that the real bad asses of farming are born.  Here, farmers, male and female alike, share their stories about how they worry.   Will they have enough money to take care of their families?  Will they have enough money to pay their employees fairly? Which employees will they have to lay-off in order to keep afloat and how will those employees’ families handle that?  Can they handle the financial stress of another expensive repair bill on a critical piece of equipment (tractor, mixer, etc.)?  How far will they fall behind on their farm payments?  They are forced to work harder and longer: who will suffer more their spouse or their children?  Can they find time to take care of themselves?  How will they find time to stay active or eat health meals?  Can they even talk to their non-farm friends about how they feel right now?  Will we continue to have a place to sell our milk and crops to?  What if consumers ask more from me and I can’t afford to make those changes? Can I pass my farm onto my sons or daughters, and if I can do I even want to?

These are heavy topics, with real and intense emotions.  Low prices are so much more than financial issues.  Low prices are just the start of a lot real problems that farm families face.  To the bad asses I know right now that are digging deep and being honest about how they feel: YOU ROCK!  God bless you for sharing your struggles and fears with us, with the consumer, and with yourselves.  You are showing so much courage in your vulnerability!  To those of you too scared to talk about it, please find a trusted friend or peer that you can vent to.  It is not healthy to keep this stuff in.  Be a bad ass and talk about your struggles and fears.  We might not be able to fix our pricing issues just yet, but we can at least know we don’t have to wade through these murky waters alone.  Stand tall! I’m cheering for you!