Beatitudes for Farmers


“Still too muddy to plant.”
“Can’t make first cutting hay with all the rain.”
“Oh, look. They’re forecasting more rain. What a surprise.”

Thomas Paine was right. These ARE the times that try men’s souls.

While farmers in other parts of the country have finally been able to make progress with their spring crop planting, much of Ohio remains soggy. On the upside, the forecast for eastern Ohio shows sun and lots of heat over the next seven days, so maybe we’ll be able to keep rolling.

Livestock producers have a double whammy because, not only did the rain mean they couldn’t get in hayfields or cropfields, but it also meant they couldn’t get into fields, period, to spread manure.

Regardless of your crop, everyone has had to deal with frustration and stress this spring. We’re tired, and cranky, and lash out at the ones closest to us — family and employees. And, unlike the 1988 pop song Don’t Worry, Be Happy suggests, it’s not that easy to stop thinking about lost profits and opportunities.

But there are things we can control this spring that may make a difference, if only to your mental health (um, which is pretty important). I call them the “Beatitudes for Farmers.”

Be patient. I know this is easier to type than it is to practice, but there’s nothing you can do about the weather.

Be of good cheer. Reader’s Digest is right, laughter really is the best medicine. As Groucho Marx once said, “A laugh is like an aspirin, only it works twice as fast.”

Actually, there is science behind the statement, too, at least related to your heart. Mental stress can impair the lining of your blood vessels, which can lead to fat and cholesterol build-up and ultimately lead to a heart attack.

With that in mind: If a parsley farmer owes child support, do they garnish his wages?

Be smart. Arm yourself with information. Call your crop insurance agent today, if you haven’t already, and don’t go by what he told your neighbor. Each farm and every plan is different.

Talk to your seed dealer, your agronomist, the Extension specialists. There’s excellent information out there about prevented planting and delayed planting and saving this crop season. If you’ve never read Ohio State’s C.O.R.N. (Crop Observation and Recommendation Network) newsletter, start now. It’s online and updates can be emailed to you, and there’s even a version for your smartphone.

Be careful. Yes, you might be planting 24/7 now, or one of these days, but way more important that getting that seed in the ground is your safety, and the safety of others on your farm. A farmer who is anxious or frustrated is just as dangerous as if he had been drinking.

Have the cell phone charged, tell someone which field you’re headed to, and check in often. Don’t take short-cuts. Watch out for soft berms and ditch edges with equipment, and watch your footing, too. Make sure you have water on hand if you’re working with anhydrous.

There are plenty more farm safety tips and practices to heed. Now’s not the time to ignore them.

Be realistic. When the weather’s right, you can’t do it all in one day. There’s a limit to how many acres you can plant or bale in one day. Prioritize and know your limits. Ask for help. Offer to help. Delegate even if you think you can do a task better.

And finally, be human. Look around at the other weather disasters that have hit the United States this spring. Could you really look a Joplin, Mo., resident in the eye and whine about not being able to plant corn? In the big scheme of things — in the wake of countless families losing loved ones — our problems are minor. I am certainly not belittling the situation and our stress, but just reminding us — myself included — that there is always someone who has a bigger problem.

This, too, shall pass.


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