I believe that at some point in our lives, we’ve probably all felt like we were bad farmers. It’s the nature of the job, isn’t it? Even if you’ve been raising animals for your entire life, something inexplicably comes along and makes you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Logically, we all know that it doesn’t actually make us bad farmers, but it feels like it. To prove my point, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the things that make me feel like a bad farmer.
Our hoof trimmer comes twice a month to trim dry cows and anyone else we deem necessary. It seems like every time they come, I find a new cow limping as soon as they leave. I failed that cow, and that makes me a bad farmer.
We didn’t need the rain. Actually, we really didn’t even want the rain because we had corn to plant or hay to make. But I still prayed for rain because we’re all exhausted. We needed a day, or at least an afternoon, to fall asleep on the couch and give our minds and bodies the breaks they desperately craved. I prayed for rain when we didn’t need it and that makes me a bad farmer.
When a calf looks off, I don’t typically immediately jump to treating it. I like to observe. Usually, by the next day, it’s pretty obvious what I need to do, whether that’s giving extra care or actually treating. But I’m not perfect, and sometimes I misjudge the situation. Sometimes, by the next feeding, they’re much worse, and I’m kicking myself for not treating right away. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but what if it did? Because I’m such an awful farmer, I will never know.
Saving the worst for last, let’s imagine that the calf in the paragraph above didn’t get better. Let’s say I spend the next few days doing everything I can to save that one tiny life, and I fail. The moment I realize an animal is gone is filled with emotions. Honestly, after the initial shock, if it’s been a long battle, one of the first emotions that courses through my body is relief: relief that the animal isn’t suffering anymore and relief that I’m not suffering anymore, either. And that, more than all the other examples combined, makes me feel like a bad farmer.
The truth is, more often than not, we think about our farm and animals before ourselves. If that’s not the definition of a good farmer, I don’t know what is. But it doesn’t make it any easier. The next time you feel like a bad farmer, try harder to give yourself some grace. Think about your trials as if another farmer was living them. Would you chastise your neighbor as quickly as you do yourself?
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.