Huddled around the kitchen table on this cold, snowy morning, our farm family is making plans. Not warm holiday plans or upcoming spring seeding plans but harvest plans. Harvest plans that have changed countless of times because we’re trying to do everything we can outside of Mother Nature who is throwing us a curve ball. Or maybe this one is a slider.
This slider we’re trying to hit over and over is that our crop is still out there and it’s already snowed twice. Today is October 2 and when you drive out to the farm, you’re greeted among hundreds of swaths lying in rows in the fields and acres of standing canola and wheat. We’re about 70% done (or about 2000 more acres left to go). We’re usually done or close to getting the crop in by now. As of last week, harvest progress in Saskatchewan reported to be at 68%, just above the 5-year average at 64%. These numbers vary significantly depending on the location. The southeastern region has 87% combined and the northwest has only 27%. So we’re counting our blessings that we’ve been able to get as much as we have off, but we’re not done yet, and the forecast is not looking good.
Harvest in itself is a stressful time. Long days, and even long nights sitting by yourself in a tractor cab or combine, breakdowns, repairs, endless trips into town for parts, missing your kid’s soccer game and birthday suppers, the list goes on. There’s not a lot of breathing room for errors, or even breathing. Throw in Mother Nature and it can force you to your knees.
As a farmer, watching your hard work, investment, and future lay out in the field is tough, hard, and upsetting. We know this is part of the gig and what we signed up for. We are up against things that are outside of our control every day. But that doesn’t mean these things don’t affect us and test us in all ways: Financially, physically and mentally.
We’re trying to manage in a few ways. First is on the business side. We’re reviewing all of our options that are in our control like developing a plan of what crops we’ll take off first and where it will go (either selling it to have more space in our aeration bins, getting charged for a company to dry it for us, and/or drying it ourselves and storing it).
We’re praying that Mother Nature throws us a good pitch and we get a good stretch of warmer weather and the sun comes out, or we get a good hard frost that freeze dries the crops so we can get in the field and combine as much as we can.
Most importantly, how we’ve managed is having each other through these hard times. We’ve learnt to celebrate our small and large successes as they come and know that hard times test and teach us things about ourselves, each other and farming. We’ve learnt that hard times don’t last forever and what is important is how we get through it together.
When my husband and I moved back to Saskatchewan and came back to the farm in 2011, my dad said something to me that has made me view farming in a whole new way. You know those moments that change your perspective and stick with you forever? This was one of them.
While we were having a meeting about where our farm was headed and our goals, he said “It’s not the number of acres or what type of equipment you have that will determine your success as a farmer. You will be successful based on how you treat each other and yourself.”
Since then, we’ve taken a step back and worked hard at building a foundation that would help us get through these tough times. Not just a financial foundation, but a foundation of culture principles and how we work together as a team and take care of each other. We’ve made each other and mental health a priority on our farm because we know without each other, there isn’t a future on our farm, even with Mother Nature’s sliders. We know that we can’t do this alone. We know that we need each other. We need each other to celebrate our successes with and to get us through the challenges.
Because right now Mother Nature is throwing sliders, but my dad is coaching and cheering from the bench and he’s telling us to not swing for the fences, but swing for singles, steal a base when she’s not looking and watch the not-so-good pitches pass us by. Our pitch is about to come and we’re prepared for it.
If you are, or know someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, please seek professional help. Do More Agriculture has a list of resources to help in times of need.