I just got back from the inaugral Vegetable Growers' Conference in Madison, WI where I was on a panel about maintaining quality of life as a farmer. I am a solo farmer without kids; also represented were a farming couple with three kids, and a solo farmer with one child. There was much discussion about communicating with your partner, making time for rest, and taking care of your body. The presentation was a great chance for me to reflect on how far I've come... I finished my doctorate a year ago, and have basically been recovering since then. This would not have been possible except that my partner is sane and models how to take weekends off. This habit has been hard to return to, and I am at the point in my farming career that I am reminded that one's goals are the only thing leading the design of one's life. Even though all farmers work insane hours, if we don't take care of ourselves, no one else will either.
I've recently reflected with another farmer friend that we've reached a turning point in our farming careers: instead of farming around our non-farming jobs, we are now fitting in non-farming jobs around our farming. It's a satisfying milestone. We're still working 60+ hour weeks on a regular basis, but we are able to make better and better strategic choices about our time. We are no longer apologetic about the price of our products: you get what you pay for, and we know what our work, and our environmental and social stewardship is worth. We've learned that bigger does not equal better or more money (necessarily). We know what we're good at, and what we should really leave to others. We relish our time on our land, in nature, and our ability to nurture plants and animals. We value being able to make our communities more resilient.
You may be at a turning point yourself in your career or your life. Being a permaculturist, I reflect better when I can see patterns. I've been using an online tool, called Liberating Structures, for the last couple of months as I assess the next steps for my farm. Check it out here. You can access the patterns for free. Maybe you'll find it useful too!
Dr. Clare Hintz has a B.S. Degree in Biology and Writing, a M.S. in Sustainable Systems with an emphasis in Agroecology, and a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education with a focus on Regenerative Agriculture. She currently teaches permaculture design and regenerative agriculture from her production permaculture farm in northern Wisconsin. She is the editor in chief of the Journal of Sustainability Education. In her spare time she knits, reads feminist science fiction and cooks really good food for friends.