Mike and Jenn Doelman

Photo Credit: Jenn Doelman

By Jennifer Doelman, CCA-On
Special to AgriNews

Grit: That ability to keep going, no matter what, in the name of achievement (or farm survival, depending on your context).  We’ve all been there – crazy long days at the farm supply or in the fields.  Your non-farming family and friends just don’t understand. Running on fumes with low sleep, fast food (if you eat) and just staying in survival mode. It’s a rite of passage for any farmer or farm support person during our peak times.

Maybe it’s time we rethink how we define ‘Grit’? Can’t we just work smarter instead of harder?

Whether it’s calving, lambing, spray season, planting season or just life on the farm, we all know to expect those long days. Grit is a phenomenal predictor of professional success and an admiral quality to boot according to Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who wrote the bestselling book on ‘Grit’ and has conducted groundbreaking research on the topic.

Ironically, it turns out that the more we push ourselves, the quicker we burn out, and the less we can achieve over time. When we overextend ourselves – planting all night, skipping lunch, relying on endless cups of coffee to stay awake in the tractor seat – we break our bodies down, day by day. Long-term stress impacts both our physical health, including our immune function and inflammation in the body, as well as our attention and memory. 

Heading into spring planting, I love seeing the ‘Planting checklists’ for equipment – making sure that the equipment is heading to the field in prime condition – greased, new bearings, new filters. Not only can these practices prevent breakdowns, but they can also reduce unnecessary repair bills, improve fuel efficiency, and help extend the lifespan of equipment.  It’s the same with livestock – good managers know that body condition and good nutrition are key performance indicators to improve reproductive efficiency, whether it’s beef, sheep, or honeybees!

So, what is your farm’s plan for the most integral part of your team: your family, your staff and you?  What is your plan to keep the whole system running at peak performance for long term-health and wellness?

Here are some great hacks from the Eastern Ontario Ag Women’s Network Facebook Group:

“An Army Marches on its Stomach.” This quote has been attributed to both Napoleon Bonapart and Fredrick the Great of Prussia, but the EOAWN wholeheartedly agrees – these were by far the most numerous ‘healthy farm sanity hacks’ for spring planting: 

Keep the ‘hangry’ away with meal prep and a huge stock of grab and go food and drinks.

Pre-season or rainy-day cooking and freezing individual portions – from shepherd’s pie to smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, muffins and more!

Have the right tools for the job: Crock pots, insta pots, panini presses and sandwich makers are great tools of the trade to break up monotony and give flexibility to meal times and types.

Call in the professionals! Hello Fresh, local food trucks or take out can be a great special treat to boost morale!

Don’t forget to hydrate -athletes know that consistently drinking water throughout the day is one of the best ways to optimize performance. Yes, plain old water is best!

Start the day on the right foot! First World War battles in the trenches proved that that keeping your feet clean and dry was key to morale and good health. New footwear and new socks pre-season were popular recommendations as well as changing your boots and socks mid-way through long days, can also help prevent foot and back pain.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: BASF hand cleaner foam, baby wipes, a water thermos for hand washing before you eat were all good suggestions to keeping healthy during the pandemic.

Get some shut eye! On our farm we encourage pulling over and having a 10-minute snooze in the field if you need it because tired operators make mistakes and are at greater risk to themselves and others. When possible, we try to have shifts for running equipment to make sure everyone can get some rest – and rainy days are for catching up on sleep!

Laughter is the best medicine: It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Sharing funny memes or a good podcast with a teammate or neighbour can be a great way to bust isolation. Please remember to enjoy responsibly! Don’t text and drive!

Celebrate with a post-season show! I send myself emails when there is a bee in my bonnet for something I want to change for the next season, rather than dwelling on it. Taking pictures of the good times or the things that go great during cropping season can keep you motivated. Our farm team celebrates the end of spring plating with a nice meal at a restaurant. We go over the list of things that were awesome or awful during cropping season and we start our prep list for the following year at that time. This is a great team building experience and helps everyone feel they are contributing to a better workplace culture.

PS: IT TAKES TEAMWORK TO MAKE THE DREAM WORK! You don’t need to be the female team member to be able to use these hacks to make for a better and safer work environment on your farm. This is an equal opportunity check list.