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Hear farmers complaining? Consider it therapy

If you spend much time around small town cafes, gas stations, bars, grain elevators and other gathering places, you've probably heard or been involved in a conversation with a farmer or rancher about the weather.

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Recent adverse weather makes for good conversation for farmers. Photo taken Oct. 10, 2018, in Stutsman County, N.D. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

If you spend much time around small town cafes, gas stations, bars, grain elevators and other gathering places, you've probably heard or been involved in a conversation with a farmer or rancher about the weather.

Lately it's been things like: How much snow did you get? You get any combining done? Been able to haul any hay lately? Those questions probably lead to a commiseration about conditions and the difficulties of finishing up fall work with the rainy, snowy, disagreeable end to September and beginning of October we've had here in the Northern Plains. On our place, the main complaint has been the windrows of sorghum still laying in the field, waiting to be dry enough to be rolled into bales.

Overhearing such conversations makes some people believe that all farmers and ranchers do is whine and complain. But I prefer to think of such conversations as a form of therapy.

A few weeks ago, a former co-worker called me to get my take on a situation with which she was dealing. I gave her my advice and we chatted about the difficulties in our industry. We haven't worked together in years, but we both understand the struggles that come with working in journalism in the current environment - things that even the most supportive family and friends can't understand unless they've experienced it. I don't know if I helped her solve her problem, but sometimes it's just nice to feel like someone else gets it.

Those gathering place conversations, to me, are the same thing, but even more important. Farmers and ranchers don't typically have many opportunities for the type of water-cooler conversations folks who work in offices have. They can't send a message to a co-worker when they are frustrated. Many of them don't even have a co-worker to begin with. A farm or ranch can be a lonely place when things aren't going well.

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So when they run into another farmer and rancher and can, for any amount of time, feel like someone gets it, it really can perk up a day.

Maybe they chat about prices or breakdowns or bankers or crop insurance. Maybe they discuss the long days that stretch into nights in the tractor and the game they missed at the school while they were harvesting or haying. Maybe they talk about that one cow that keeps climbing fences into the neighbor's pasture. Maybe they share strategies for getting a calf to drink after a hard pull to bring it into the world.

To those who've never experienced farm life, any of those conversations can sound like whining and complaining. But to those who work mostly alone and keep to themselves most of the time, these interactions just might be keeping them balanced.

It can seem, sometimes, that those of us on farms and ranches talk too much about the weather. And maybe we do. But the weather determines everything for us - how the crop grows, whether we can get in the field, cattle health, how the equipment runs. And we have no control over it. All we can do is talk about it and feel like someone else gets what we're saying.

So, if you ever hear a couple farmers trading snow totals or rain totals or wind damage totals, hold off on thinking that they're just whining. We all need someone to talk to every once in awhile. Maybe it's just their little bit of therapy to keep them going and make them feel that they're not in it alone.

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Jenny Schlecht

Related Topics: THE SORTING PENFARMING
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