Since I drive equipment a lot, I feel like my lower back is always a little bit sore. When it hurts, I do the thing where I twist and bend in every way, trying to find the perfect stretch to work it out. You know what I mean? It’s that sweet spot right on the edge of ‘Oooh that feels good’ and maybe just slightly into the realm of ‘Holy cow that hurts.’ But it hurts so good, right? I always think that’s my sweet spot. If I can hold that stretch, the muscle pain will eventually work itself out. I don’t technically know if that’s true, but it seems to make sense in my brain. I’m starting to wonder if that’s where I am with farming.
You need to know that I love this life. I love the cows. I love the wide-open spaces. I love the people. I love that I get to spend every day with my family. I love the teamwork and intense sense of accomplishment that comes at 1 a.m. when you’ve just finished hauling 150 bales home 7 miles from the farm. I don’t love all of it — you know the flip side of this coin — but the parts I do love are so overwhelming it makes me emotional. Still, some days I wonder. I wonder if I’ve been riding that line between stretching and pain for too long. I wonder what I would be without the farm.
Don’t pretend you haven’t wondered the same. Granted, the first image that comes to mind is probably a little romanticized. How could it not be? I imagine a job that gets me home by 5 p.m., dinners with friends, and oh, OH! VACATIONS?!?!? Insert mind-blowing emoji here. I don’t pretend like it’d be all glitter and unicorns, but while I’m still farming, it looks like freedom. And for a few hours, maybe days, it feels possible. It feels more than possible; it feels like the perfect stretch that alleviates all the pain.
But then I think about what I’ll lose. The farm made me . . . me. Everything good about me came from this place and these people. I’m pretty sure I’d be rubbish working at place where I couldn’t run in the house quick and grab a drink or snack or sweatshirt. Cows and working with my family have ruined me for daily human interaction. Some days, I find it difficult to do more than grunt in my brother’s direction. Every thought, opinion, goal, and skill I possess is because of this farm. And suddenly, not being a farmer doesn’t feel so freeing.
I’m not sure this article has a point, because I am not at all against farmers selling their herd or land and moving on in life. Honestly, some days I’m a little jealous of farmers that have. But, for now, I’m going to ride that line between the stretch and the pain because dang, when it comes to farming, it hurts so good.
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.