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Farmer amnesia

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 07 February 2018
pivot stuck in the mud

Despite the labor pains of farming, a farmer eagerly lines up to experience it again and again, season after season.

From an evolutionary perspective, memory of pain serves an important role. Toddlers experience this phenomenon every day; it’s part of their brain development. If they touch the stove, it burns them. That hurts, so they learn not to touch the stove again. Thus, our species perpetuates. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule. Despite the pain of childbirth, mothers line up to experience it again, sometimes several times over. Once that newborn is placed in their arms, the pain from moments before vanishes. This has been dubbed the “halo effect.”

Childbirth-induced amnesia isn’t just an urban legend. I speak from both experience as a mother several times over and from research. According to this research, a woman who experiences a “moderate level” (whatever that means) of pain during childbirth will likely have a sort of amnesia post-delivery. The pain from delivery is recalled as less severe than actually experienced and feelings of euphoria are most readily remembered.

As I am currently pregnant with my third child, I don’t doubt the legitimacy of this research. I voluntarily chose to have another child. I don’t recall my daughters’ deliveries being “that bad” (again, whatever that means). This child will be a springtime baby, so his gestation has lined up well with our farming season, which brings me to the second exception – the farmer.

Last year we planted corn on a small field behind our home. It was the first year we had ever grown corn in that field, and by harvest time we vowed it would also be the last. Despite every trick suggested, the center pivot got stuck in deep, slimy mud every rotation during the last month. This led to hours of shovel work in the sauna-type conditions of a well-grown corn crop. That pivot was nicknamed “the mistress,” and my farmer-husband joked that sometimes he could even keep her turned on. Next year she would be planted in permanent cattle pasture. True to farmer amnesia, she is prepped for corn silage once again. Despite the pain, all that is recalled is how well she yielded.

This farmer-induced amnesia is an annual occurrence when it comes to our calves. Despite calving in horrible, blizzard-type conditions, we continue to calve in the winter, and I can say this year, it has mostly worked out for us. Because of that, the pain will perpetuate. Motherhood and “farmerhood” have much in common.

I know we aren’t the only farmers who experience this amnesia. Promises to not grow beans this year because of the “robbing” at the elevator are a common story and beans will still be planted because “I like growing beans.” Several years ago, alfalfa fields were brutally torn out because “prices were too dang low.” Most of those fields have since been replanted in alfalfa. Farmer amnesia perpetuates.

And you know, it isn’t just amnesia. When prices are low, pivots are stuck, days are long and the work is hard, farmers still maintain an overwhelming sense of optimism. That’s another thing that farmers and mothers share – the optimism of the next generation. That generation may be the human family, the plant family or the animal family, but they know it must continue and they line up to get ‘er done. Hats off to you farmers and you mothers. Thank you for always “forgetting.”  end mark

Erica Louder is a freelancer based in Idaho.

PHOTO: Lest a farmer forgets the pain of a pivot stuck in a cornfield, this serves as documentation of that pain. Photo by Erica Louder.