Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Quick preface: I’m going to split this post into two parts – one part focussing on connections to arthritis and the other focusing subjects important within the farming community, of which I’m passionate about. Bear with me through this… with so much to cover, it might be a bit all over the place!
I touched on both of these topics in Part 1 of Farm Life, yet there’s so much to talk about, it’s a squeeze to fit everything in two posts. Perhaps I’ll do another Agri based post in the future, but in the meantime, if you have any follow-up questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
So, let’s dive in…
As someone with RA, living (and working) on the farm has a big impact on my mental health – both positive and negative. Being out in nature and working with animals is amazing for peace of mind, but farm work is hard, and if my RA stops me from doing something, it can very quickly change my mood and how I feel about myself. If something is really beating me, well, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Perhaps it’s just stubborn genetics, but I think even before my diagnosis I didn’t like something to beat me. Now, I just need to take a different approach and be a little more sensible - I’m happy to adapt and try to complete a task in a different way, working with my body not against it, and consider the long term effects of my actions, not just the short term frustration I feel in the moment.
For example: If I’m on my knees to lamb a sheep or help a lamb suckle, bent over to feed a calf, lifting heavy gates or walling stones, I now have to remember that it won’t just affect me there and then; I’ll likely feel it for the next 3 or 4 days, so I have to adapt when and where I can. In the moment, whilst lambing a sheep, for example, I don’t even think about the position I’m in or the pain, I just can’t stand up afterwards and feel like an 80-year-old!
Unfortunately, adapting is not always an option. Sometimes, there’s no choice and I need to be in one position for a length of time – such as holding a sheep down whilst lambing it, pushing sheep up into a pen and not letting it push me back, or holding a cow when it's kicking – I can’t just let go, even though all I can think about is the pain. When I have to run after sheep or cows and my legs are putting up such a fight, and I’m just about out of air but know I can’t stop. I count my lucky stars when the quad bike pulls up beside me so I can hitch a lift. These times can be tough, both physically and mentally, but it’s all just part of it.
Farming is one of the most isolated occupations there is. In fact, many farmers can go days without seeing another person! Imagine that. A lot can happen on the farm in a few days. Sometimes, if I’m out just for the day, I can come home and it seems crazy all that has happened. Emotions fly and moods can change in seconds, but there’s one thing that always remains the same – STRESS! Like anyone in charge of a business, there so much responsibility. In farming, lives depend on you every day, and there are so many elements you can’t control. From the weather to an animal’s behaviour, machinery breaking down to tourists causing problems and endless paperwork to the government’s next move. It’s a lot to deal with, so it’s easy to see why those doing it alone could be a little grumpy!
I joined a webinar for #womeninag the other day with guest speaker Anna Trusedale (@annatrues on Instagram with over 30k followers). She was talking about how been on social media keeps her connected and positively impacts her mental health when she doesn’t see anyone else for a few days. The power of the internet can be great in this respect. I also follow @redshepherdess on Instagram – another #womeninag sensation.
With all this moaning, I fear I’m not really ‘selling’ the idea of farming, but you have to know, that through all the aches and pains, stresses and worries, it’s an amazing job! The animals give us all so much enjoyment, and knowing we’re doing our part to keep welfare standards high and produce quality food to feed the nation, makes it all worth it!
Of course, there are those who disagree entirely… the constant battle with vegan activists is a tiresome one! I have had a lot hate from the vegan community on my Instagram account and I know others who have experienced the same. Luckily, no ‘activists’ have come onto our farm thus far, but others haven’t been so lucky there! My sister did a fantastic article about this topic in a Yorkshire based lifestyle magazine Aspire last year. She received so much positive feedback in person and sent directly to her. As expected, she also received a lot of backlash, though she did find most of this was from keyboard warriors on Facebook groups. It would be great to hear your opinions if you would like to give it a read, the extended version is available here - https://www.djdcontentcreation.com/post/the-rise-of-vegan-activists
With these types of things, I believe many problems stem from education or a lack thereof. As farmers, we get all sorts of accusation thrown at us and find that so much the ‘evidence’ or information these people have just doesn’t relate to UK farming whatsoever. There are some factory farms in the UK, but on a much smaller scale. The majority of UK farms are small, family-run enterprises. As a country with some of the highest welfare standards in the world, the way we farm simply cannot be compared to the likes of the US or South America. It is also important to note that the vast majority of UK farmers don’t agree with these foreign farming practices pictured in documentaries made only to scaremonger. Animal welfare is paramount to farmers here, something which can be seen and tasted in the quality of our produce.
In short, the best thing people can do, for animal welfare, the environment and local economy, is to buy local wherever you can! I know not everyone can buy local all the time (especially now when a lot of people have had to isolate themselves and just get online deliveries), but making an effort where you can makes a massive difference.
I know the world was a lot different in years gone by, but for previous generations, it just seemed to be the thing they did and the same now for a lot of different cultures. But our/my generation, does it even cross their minds? Imagine if we had agriculture in the school curriculum. It would make such a difference! I know I wouldn’t have been so astonished so many times at Uni when chatting to friends about farming or where their food comes from.
Putting my physio hat on for a moment here, but let’s also think about the global crisis of obesity. Would that be as bad if everyone had a bit more education about their food? If everyone supported small, local ventures, rather than supermarkets and all their appealing sweets on every aisle end or fast food chains?
Once the COVID crisis settles, and I begin my campaign to our local MP, I really want to get it right, so I’d love to get opinions and ideas from a variety of people. It would be great if you could help me out with that by commenting on this post or sending me a private message. Anything and everything, any time – please!
Wherever you are from the in the world, everyone should know where their food comes from and everyone should care about the welfare standards throughout production.
For my British followers - if you have two minutes to spare, please read and sign this food stands petition - https://www.campaigns.nfuonline.com/page/56262/petition/1?locale=en-GB
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