Service your equipment. As a teenager, I used to hate taking time to service equipment. I wanted to hop on and go right this minute, not in 10 minutes. I didn’t want to waste my time checking the oil, filling up the water or antifreeze, putting fuel in the tank, or checking the tires. That all seemed minor to the operation, but though they seemed meager, they were some of the most important parts of the job. A tractor with no water overheats, causing time to be lost. Low to no oil becomes a locked engine and a fix that costs several hundred to a thousand dollars. A low tire leads to a flat tire that can lead to a busted rim. No matter how meager and minor it may seem, those 10 minutes can save you in the long run.
Read the labels. I used to get so frustrated when my dad and granddad would sit in the shop and read the labels of fertilizer bags, spray material, seed corn, and other materials. I would usually roll my eyes and remind them we used the same thing last year. However, I learned that things change. Chemicals and seeds are modified for one advantage or another, and if you don’t properly use it, you will either over- or underdo it. Either can be detrimental to the growth and proliferation of your crops.
Do your homework. Soil samples and fertilizer recommendations are a great place to start and to figure how to receive the most yield out of your land. Do your homework and examine those results, figure out what the best method is, and go for it. I know the word fertilizer is terrifying this year but doing your homework may help to keep the cost low.
Keep it in the windrow. As farmers, we tend to think about eight million or more things at any given time. When you are on your planter, baler, rake, discbine, haybine, or whatever you may be using, keep it in the windrow. Calm your head down and focus on the task in front of you. Distraction can lead to injuries and equipment failures. Keep your eye on the job to ensure it goes smoothly.
Breathe. Breathing sounds dumb and I know several of you are either laughing or wondering if I’m a real farmer. Truth is, as farmers we are constantly on a time crunch. We have to get everything done in such a short span of time that it’s hard to take time to breathe. Even if it’s only 30 seconds, breathe and calm down. Stop stressing about what has to be done by whatever time and focus on what you can get done right now. Don’t dwell on what has happened; move on. One of my favorite quotes is “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” Today is your gift. Treat it like such and focus on all you can do today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.
As a farmer, I know these tips are great and achievable, but I also know the stress of planting and harvesting. Try to enjoy it as much as you can. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is now. Stay safe everyone.
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.