By Kate Procter
Harvest is always a stressful time of year. As we rush to get the year’s worth of work put in the bins safely, there is never a shortage of things that can go wrong. No matter how carefully I plan and try to anticipate and prepare.
We get tired. We have too many things on our minds. We say things we don’t mean, sometimes not realizing until hours later. We run on dust and fumes and never enough sleep. If you have new equipment, there is a lot of learning and possibly mistakes that can slow you down. If you have old equipment, you likely know all the things that can go wrong and try to prepare in advance, but even the old faithfuls still have the ability to surprise.
In the past couple of years, the stress of farming, and farmers’ mental health has received a lot more attention. In a Facebook farming group I belong to, I have noticed the question seems to come up regularly about how people deal with stress during harvest. There are lots of good ideas, most of which we don’t have time for when we are in the thick of it. Like sleep.
Recognizing what we have to be thankful is one excellent way of dealing with stress. That gets a boost because Thanksgiving usually happens right in the middle of harvest. It helps bring it all front and center. I am most thankful for all the unsung harvest heroes who get their time to shine. If you’ve ever had to go through these things alone you learn to really appreciate all the people who keep the wheels turning in the background.
I am always so grateful for my family. Nothing makes me feel loved like getting a text “How’s it going? Do you need a coffee?”. I’ve loved to watch the development of my kids through harvest – those small people who used to sit on the tool box in the combine now prepare full meals with food from the garden, drive them to the field, run equipment, do battle with temperamental augers, climb high heights, and anticipate what needs to be done without being asked.
These harvest heroes are the people who drop everything when they get the call that you need an emergency part while you try to get things torn apart to put the new part back in. If you’re lucky enough to have family members who are also skilled at a variety of tasks and don’t mind jumping in during the busy times – that is an extra bonus.
My sister has run all sorts of equipment in her farming career and can hop in and do anything, always with a cheery attitude that brings the rest of us up. With rain only hours away and an equipment breakdown she has no problem stepping in to do whatever is needed to keep all the wheels turning. She knows how to find grease fittings and leaves enough time to fuel herself and equipment before heading to the field.
Having experienced people in the background to get advice and ideas from is also important. My parents are very involved – my Mom providing meals on wheels and an ear to listen, and my Dad with his patient, wise advice. My Dad’s calculator keys have the numbers well worn off – and if there is a difference in the figures, I know I better check mine.
It is great to have a mix of experienced and new members of the team. Experienced folks can anticipate things before they go wrong and often have ideas for solutions when they do. But it is also good to have new eyes who just might see a solution that has never been thought of before because we are too busy doing things the way they’ve always been done. Taking the time to listen to different ideas often benefits everyone.
Aside from family and co-workers, I am always so grateful for all of the wonderful folks we work with in our farming industry. We work long hours during harvest, and so do they. When I needed fertilizer on Thanksgiving Sunday to finish off planting the wheat, one text message had a load delivered from Brussels Agromart before the sun was up. When we have equipment breakdowns – the mechanics come from all over to get us up and running again.
I also have wonderful neighbours, some do some planting for us, others who are always ready with expertise and tools to help out. This year some emergency Gorilla Tape on a holiday let us keep our combine running after we had an unfortunate incident with the new draper head. Who knew a patch of tape could keep us going until we had a rainy day and the mechanics could do a proper fix?
I’m grateful for all of those who came before and through their trial and error, joys and stresses, led us to where we are today. I’m especially grateful that my commute is two minutes long and the view from my office regularly includes hawks and Bald Eagles, deer and coyotes, the beautiful Maitland River, and the chance to experience nature in a way that not everyone gets the chance to do. ◊