June 12 2020 11:00 AM

Whether it’s a leaky pipe or a personal issue, dairy farmers are often hesitant to ask for help. But when times are tough, mental health should be prioritized.

My parents bought a farm that came with a house. The house ended up being a bit of a fixer-upper . . . I’m talking very little siding, negligible plumbing, and small animals in the walls. This led to a lot of stories. One of the more memorable ones is the tale of the boiling toilet.

Like I previously mentioned, the house had some shoddy plumbing. After a lot of hard work, it came down to a single pipe that split no matter what we did to hold it together.

Finally, my parents asked the local plumber to come and help us with what would quickly become a very heated situation. So, he closed off the valve that fed the troublesome pipe and went to work.

Before I finish this infamous story, I think it’s important to address something.

My parents are dairy farmers. They are notorious for overworking themselves. We’re not the type to ask for help unless someone makes us or it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes we don’t even see that we need help or are too ashamed to ask for it. Farmers often forget to take time for themselves and decompress.

So, the mental pressure and actual air pressure continued to build. My parents were overworked, overtired, and something had to give. And something did.

They heard a loud banging sound and a whoosh of air coming from our empty bathroom. Aghast, they found that the porcelain lid of the toilet had flown open, and the bowl was steaming and bubbling.

Sometimes a problem looks like a simple broken pipe but has a more systemic root.

Evidently, our older-than-dirt electric water heater had been the problem all along. It was super-heating the water and causing air pressure to build up in the pipe under the sink. But, when the valves to the pipe were closed, both the air pressure and the super-heated water back-flushed into our toilet, melting the fixtures and boiling the water.

Like I said, something had to give.

Why do I tell this story? Partially because it’s light-hearted, fairly relatable, and entertaining. On the other hand, I think it speaks to how important it is to stop, ask for help, and take a break.

The dairy industry has lacked many favorable qualities in the last five years. Times have been hard, and I think we all feel like COVID-19 is kicking us while we’re down. Mental health has taken a sharp decline in the general population since mid-March. This has been especially true for farmers, as they dealt with volatile changes in markets.

Just because there’s super-heated water doesn’t mean you have to sit in it. Take time for yourselves and your families. Write a list of all the reasons you love being a part of the dairy industry and post it somewhere you can see. Fix the broken water heater before it boils your toilet and breaks your pipes.

Abbie Cox

Abbie Cox grew up in Cato, N.Y. on a first-generation dairy farm and currently attends Cornell University as a member of the class of 2021, ma-joring in animal science with a minor in education and a focus in dairy. On campus, she is involved with the Cornell Uni-versity Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and is a Peer Adviser with CALS Student Services. Cox has interned with the MILC group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and is the 2020 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.