I am a farmer, I am struggling and I’m not alone

Last night at 1a.m, I read an American article on farm stress and suicide rates (link at the bottom of the page) .Part of why I was still up at 1am is that I am stressed, so extremely stressed about our farm, farm bills, personal finances and supporting my little family not just financially but mentally as well. If I am stressed about all of the above, my husband’s stress levels are through the roof and he is starting to hit a wall.

As I sat thinking about why the article upset me so much other than the obvious reasons I realized that at this moment in time; when it comes to farming I feel like I am digging my own grave to follow my dreams.

This was my 5th harvest, that’s how long I have been farming. I am still new at this, although my husband was farming before I came along. Since I came to farming every year has gotten harder for us to make it work. Every year we dig our hole a little deeper and add more stress to our load. Every year we think we won’t be able to make it another year and then somehow we scrape enough together to get next seasons crop in the ground. I don’t want to say how many times we have talked about the possibility of having to sell land to continue on and how detrimental that would be to our mental wellbeing.

One thing that has added to my personal struggle is the realization that when I try to reach out to friends who are not farmers or in the agricultural industry for support they do not understand my stress, my anxiety or my fears and this only adds to my feelings of isolation. In 2016 we had a 10 minute hail storm come through during harvest. We should have been in the field combining but our fields were too wet to get machines into from the insistent rains we received that year. In 10 minutes our crops were destroyed and I was devastated. I reached out to an online moms group as I didn’t want to show how upset I was to the world. They tried to support me and I love them all for trying but until you have been through that you just cannot commiserate. It is not the same as having hail damage your summer garden.

I am a proud person, I do not like asking for help nor do I like airing my personal failings to others; however my feelings, my struggles and my emotions are all to common in our industry. Below are stats from a Guelph University study on farmers. It is because of these stats and the knowledge that suicide rates are twice as high in farmers in the USA than war veterans, and that in France a farmer commits suicide every 2 days, every 4 days in Australia and once a week in England that I am sharing my own struggles. You are not alone and I am here if you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. Saskatchewan farm stress line 800-667-4442

35% of farmers are suffering with depression
40% of those with depression wouldn’t seek help
45% of farmers are living with high stress everyday
58% of farmers are living with anxiety

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/why-are-americas-farmers-killing-themselves-in-record-numbers

Everyone Needs to Eat

*caution bad language ahead*

Right now my give a damn is broken and I hurt. In fact it feels like I have suffered a loss.

I’ve posted about the challenges of this year and how hard it’s been and right now I want to drive that home.

This is one of the hardest years in a long time to be a farmer where we are. So we are relying on insurance claims, above and beyond our grain revenue to hopefully break even. I would like to emphasize break even, not make money.

Last night I came home from the field with two hungry little girls to a basement full of shit water and I had a breakdown. Every single aspect of our lives this year have been an epic uphill battle. My wonderful husband rushed home to deal with shit and in doing so brought news that has taken every ounce of wind out of our sails. Our new and exciting insurance policy that we were depending on to break even is currently saying we aren’t even close to being eligible for a claim. That broke my heart, in fact it’s still in pieces. It means that with 3 different farm insurances we are still well below coming up with the amount we need to cover our fixed costs. So where does that money come from? Hopefully the majority of my husbands off farm wage will cover it. Which means we will try to scrape by until next harvest when the farm will hopefully have income. It means if we can’t scrape by then we start selling assets. Or better yet little pieces of our heart, because to us farming is a part of our being, not our job.

So right now with pieces of my heart all over the floor, I want to say fuck it. I’m done breaking my back and draining my bank account to feed the world. I’m done fighting with consumers so far removed from agriculture that they think we are trying to kill them. At this moment in time I don’t care about anyone and as far as I’m concerned they can fend for themselves. Do I mean that? No, but right now I am hurt and I am angry.

I do not write this because I want sympathy or handouts I don’t. Please spare me the “I’m so sorry” speech. I want to make everyone aware that farmer is hard and sometimes it sucks, our profit margins are small and our risk is enormous. We do it because it’s our passion and let’s face it, everyone needs to eat.

 

** Edited to add; Β I am thankful for so much in my life and believe me when I say I do not take any of it for granted. But just for a second I am allowing myself to feel angry and then to grieve and heal.

The ‘Window’

In film we fondly refer to the last shot of the night as the ‘window’. When the crew hears the Assistant Direcror call “this is the window folks” they all work a little faster and get a little smile on their faces as they know their 12-16 hour day is soon coming to and end.

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I no longer spend my days on film sets listening for the 1st AD to call ‘window’ but this last week of weather has been a ‘window’ of sorts for us Farmers in Western Canada, trying wrap up our 2016 harvest. This has honestly been a harvest for the books. If you read my last post, you will recall me proclaiming that we had pulled the pin on this years harvest and moved onto all the other odd jobs on the farm. Well I have a secret for you, farmers are eternal optimists! We have to be, how else could we possibly continue on year after year with crazy weather, crappy grain prices and everything else that gets thrown our way. So even though we said we were throwing in the towel, we left our combines greased and sitting in the field just in case we got a weather opening πŸ™‚

The last couple days have been a big push. With cold tempuratures at night, fog, dew and low day time highs the hours where combining was possible have been short. We have made the most of them and tonight when it started spitting and the combines got shut down we were left with 60 acres of standing barley. Well it’s kind of standing, it’s mainly hailed out and has been snowed on at least 2 times but hey it’s still a crop. Will the weather cooperate and allow us to wrap up?! Who knows, Β your guess is as good as mine. But for us and the thousands of other farmers out there who are struggling to finish I sure hope so!

Farm Family

I have felt added pressure living in a small farm community to be a stay at home mom. The kind of amazing women who tends to the kids, keeps up with the chores and house and turns out amazing meals to feed the masses, especially during seeding and harvest. But that is not who I am and it doesn’t make me happy, truthfully it actually makes me resentful for having those expectations tossed on me just because I bore a couple kids. I have the upmost respect for women in that roll but of all the hats I wear that isn’t one I enjoy. When asked what I do I say farmer, because yes I am mom but my job is to help run with the farm.

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Since we are a young farm family just starting out that means means my Farmer works off farm to make ends meet and both of us work on the farm. Well really I should say all 4 of us work on the farm. My oldest T got her start as a combine operator when she was 6 weeks old. Both girls love the white noise and vibration of equipment as I spent the majority of both pregnancies running tractors and combines. This spring we had both girls out all day and built a new fence line and put a gate in. It takes extra time farming with the girls and a lot of multitasking but they have been little rock stars. I am sure there are some who do not agree with the way we are raising our girls and that is fine. No they do not have the strict routine that many parents strive for but they still have their naps everyday just not always in their own beds.

I am a farmer and I am a mom, that means where I go the girls go to. They make parts runs with me, hang out while I work on equipment (T loves playing with my tools) and they ride in the equipment with us. We have car seats everywhere and sometimes we don’t even know what piece of equipment they are we do so much running around. My girls are 5th generation farmers, it is in their blood and it is how they are growing up. I think it is special and I hope as they get older I can instil strength and conviction in them that women can do anything and that having kids does not mean you have to give up your passions. I must also say we are extremely blessed to have the family help that we do. My mother in law helps watch the girls sometimes and does a lot of the cooking in peak farming season. My father in law helps run and fix equipment when we need a hand and my parents always come out for a stint during seeding and harvest to help as well!

We have had our blunders, laughed a lot, shed some tears but when I take a moment to step away from the craziness of our lives I am always amazed at what our little farm family can accomplish! I am excited to see our family and our farm grow together!

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