Feb. 7 2024 11:24 AM

I’m learning that it’s okay to take time away from work for the things I care about.

I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. At least, it wasn’t for me. A lot of times, we make it in the moment. But ultimately, we often decide that farming is more important — more important than the kid’s sports game or chorus concert. More important than your baby’s first sonogram or Uncle Jim’s 80th birthday bash. We decide that we can’t leave in case that cow is going to need help calving or that we need to get those last few acres of hay off before the 60% chance of rain tonight. Don’t come at me; I know how important each of those things are because I’ve been farming for more of my life than I haven’t. But as the farm kid, and now the farmer with nieces and nephews, I also know how important it is to show up for the people you love.

Lately, I’ve realized how much I blame the farm. It’s become, and has probably always been, my biggest excuse. And what an excuse it is. We are literally responsible for hundreds of lives. It may come off as overly dramatic, but we genuinely do find ourselves in the occasional life and death situation. They are cow lives, but still, they are lives. It has become an excuse that I use so much that it hasn’t only strained relationships, it has effectively ended them.

I don’t make plans with farm friends because we’re all convinced we can never leave the farm. I don’t make plans with non-farm friends because I’ve canceled so many times because of the farm that they don’t even bother trying anymore. And the worst of it is, they’re right. Why even try if the answer is always a “maybe” that ultimately becomes a “no”?

Personally, what’s worse is that I’ve been using the farm to not show up for myself. As a dairy farmer, I often find myself feeling bitter toward other kinds of farmers because they get “breaks.” Crop farmers can’t farm in the winter, and beef farming can be somewhat seasonal, but dairy farming is as 24/7 as it gets. So, the question is, when do we get our break? The answer is, whenever the heck we want.

I’m not sure I’ve learned my lesson, but I’m working on actively telling myself that the farm will still be there if I want to take the weekend off or attend that conference or plan a trip. The farm will always be there, but I, and the friendships I make, may not be.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.