May 10 2024 01:37 PM

There’s nothing wrong with seeking a bit of balance.

There seems to be a long-held stigma in dairy farming around taking time off the farm. It’s a 365-day-a-year job that makes even the simple logistics of a few hours away difficult. But there still seems to be that underlying current of, “What will the neighbors think?”

This generation seems to be making headway in prioritizing mental health and protecting against physical burnout. We push ourselves as farmers in so many directions all the time; it’s okay to seek a better balance. Changing that narrative to embrace the benefits and support one another needs to follow.

It’s fully understandable why this is such a struggle. Each farm is so unique and not everyone has a labor force to step into empty boots, even if it’s just for a couple hours or few days. But to make it easier, we can take the guilt and jealousy out of the conversations.

My husband and I managed to take a quick 18 hours off the farm this past week. It was an overdue and welcome break. We know as a small family farm how lucky we are to still have a partnership that allows us that time. Still, there was that little nagging voice in the back of my head about what a guilty luxury it was. Hopefully as an industry, we can start to cheer for one another when those victories happen.

Take the time for those moments in life that really matter. Leave the guilt behind when you get a chance to get off the farm. And realize there is nothing wrong with seeking a healthier balance.

Darleen Sichley

The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of young sons who round out the family-run operation as micromanagers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.