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Prioritizing your year

Kelsey Pagel for Progressive Forage Published on 31 December 2021

People assume because I’m a farmer, my days of hard work are filled with physical activity, but that’s not always true. Farming has changed immensely in the last few decades.

My husband (like many farmers) is amazingly talented at simplifying jobs. He made a cement mixer when we were building pipe fences so the job would be sped up by not having to hand mix cement. He can roll and unroll electric fence string without getting out of a Gator. The point is: He can make anything and it speeds up the job – but at the expense of a lot of physical activity we don’t even notice we’re missing.

Stick with me here: This time of year we are inundated with messages that the way we are right now isn’t enough. We need to join a gym, lose weight, set bigger and better goals, meal plan, drink a million ounces of water a day, do self-care, meditate and wash your hair more often than once a week. Seriously, it’s everywhere. It makes me feel overwhelmed, stuck and not motivated to do anything at all. Then I berate myself for not doing anything. I’m going to say this upfront. You are enough. You are enough just the way you are. You don’t have to change anything to be worthy. You are worthy right now.

Being active on the farm is not only about staying in good physical shape; it’s about mental health as well. Physical shape is important, don’t get me wrong. But that looks different for all of us. For my husband, that means climbing up the silo multiple times a day and incorporating a lot of physical activity into his day. For me, it’s doing 20 to 30 minutes of YouTube workouts before leaving the house in the morning. Maybe it’s walking to the barn for you. It’s all different. Don’t neglect your physical health just because you’re too busy. You only get one body, and if you don’t take care of it, you aren’t going to be able to farm – and if you are, it’s not going to be enjoyable because your body will hurt.

As for the mental side of health, working side by side with your spouse is really hard. Working side by side with your spouse with your husband’s family is another layer of hard. There’s different boundaries, different opinions, different ideas and different expectations.

In our lives, we decided, there must be time for seven things:

  1. Work on the farm
  2. General upkeep and work on our house outside of farming
  3. Daily tasks like cooking, laundry, dishes, bill paying, etc.
  4. Time for me to pursue other career interests
  5. Marriage building time (i.e., date nights, vacation, etc.)
  6. Family and social obligations
  7. Rest and recharging time

We are incredibly selfish of our time off. We are incredibly particular about what we agree to be a part of or volunteer for, and show up when we can make a difference. I show up when I’m needed, not just a space that needs filled. I challenge you to look at the things you’re involved in. Are you a warm body or are you making a difference?

We live in a society that loves the hustle, loves being busy all the time. It’s a badge of honor to have no time in your schedule. Resting and relaxing is for the weak. There is work to be done. But tell me this: Is it more important than your mental health? Resting is good. But that means you have to prioritize the rest of your time so you can enjoy rest. It takes dedication and intentionality.

As we begin this new year, I encourage you to move your body. I encourage you to go for walks – but more importantly, I encourage you to make a list, like we did, of the things you need time for. Then make a plan for all of it to happen and stick to it. Good luck and happy New Year!  end mark

Kelsey Pagel is a freelance writer based out of northeast Kansas.