Feb. 22 2024 10:03 AM

It takes both mental and physical strength to be a part of a farming family.

Everyone has heard of physical strength and mental strength. Physical strength can be measured based on upper body strength, leg strength, core, stamina, and so on. When we were young, folks would break records at the gym in school in order to build this strength. Mental strength, on the other hand, can range from skills like leadership abilities to being able to keep your composure in traumatic situations. Teachers, first responders, and mothers are some of the people who excel in the mental strength department of life. There are thousands of other “strengths” in this world, but one that I always admired and didn’t fully understand until I managed to gain some is farmer strength.

As a kid, I deeply admired my parents. At home, Mom held everything together with a composure very few have ever seen. If Dad had a hard day at work, she would talk to him, and then she would put on a smiling face to get me and my brothers dinner and ready for bed. She claims it’s all part of being a mom, but the reality is that farm wives deal with a lot. They must not only “hold down the fort” at home, but they also handle whatever their husbands bring home both mentally and physically. Farm wives have their own farmer strength that is unmatched by all others.

I always believed my dad was a superhero. He could lift anything, fix anything, and figure out any situation we were in. As I got older, I learned that those abilities come with time, experience, and a strength found amongst most farmers. Farming is hard. Not only are we constantly fighting a losing battle with the commodity markets, weather, animals, and all other aspects of the farm, but we are having to brush it off and move on each and every time.

When bringing a new heifer in or saving a calf from a bad situation, we unlock a strength we didn’t know we had. We learn to use every last ounce of muscle in our body to our advantage, and most of the time, we accomplish the impossible. No matter the situation, we manage to get through it and keep going. Mentally, we deal with finances, calf death, and other losses, but somehow, we push through and have a smile on our face.

Farming isn’t for everyone. The physical and mental toll it takes is one few understand. We deal with a lot to feed and nurture the world. Stay safe everybody.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.