It’s no secret that farmers will do anything to take care of their cows. Often to the detriment to our own lives. What dairy farmer hasn’t skipped a party to make hay? Who hasn’t pushed through a migraine, allergies, or other ailments to make sure the cows are milked and fed? And I know that every one of us has gotten ourselves out of bed after a hard 20-plus hour day with only 2 hours of sleep to do it all over again. I read articles every week about how we can better take care of our cows, but when do we start taking better care of ourselves? Throwing hay bales, fixing equipment, and carrying heavy calves is a pretty good workout. But honestly, with all the technological advances, bigger equipment, and faster, more convenient food options our physical health may be something that deserves a little more attention. Walk to the barn instead of driving the truck or four-wheeler. Grab a handful of carrot sticks instead of a bag of chips. Have some premade meals in the fridge or freezer instead of grabbing fast food on the way home. Are you drinking too many sugary drinks throughout the day, or eating too big of a meal late at night? Or maybe what you need is an extra hour of sleep a couple days a week. There’s another kind of health we basically never discuss: mental health. This job can be super, mind numbingly hard. Sometimes, it’s the smallest thing that tips you over the edge and then you’re down for a month. Find a friend or family member you feel comfortable talking to or a place where you can think things through – your happy place. Pick one or two days a week where you sleep an extra hour or take a night off to grab a drink with a friend. It’s time we removed the stigma from talking about our health and ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with seeking treatment, either. We can talk all day about our happy, healthy cows, but what’s the use if we’re not happy and healthy, too? I know firsthand how hard it is to walk away from the farm and leave it all in someone else’s hands. But how can we be or do what’s best for our girls if we can’t even do what’s best for ourselves? If you’re feeling lost or downhearted, reach out to someone, because I promise that every farmer has been there. Truly, if you need to talk, my virtual door is always open!
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.