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Commentary: Focus on Fun, Focus on the Future

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By: Gary Truitt

If you are the kind of person who revels on bad news, who sees the glass as half empty, or who focuses on problems rather than solutions, then you are in hog heaven. Almost everywhere you look in agriculture you can find bad news. The markets are at new lows, exports are down, the ethanol industry is on its knees, pork processing plants are shutting down, dairy and vegetable producers are dumping products on the ground, and finding workers to plant a new crop is impossible. Since the coffee shop in town is closed, you can’t even get together with others to complain about all this. Focusing on fear is easy these days; focusing on fun is a lot harder.

Wait a doggone minute, where is the fun? Disney World is closed, baseball is suspended, even the beer makers have shut down. My county 4-H fair has been cancelled, and the whiskey distilleries are making hand sanitizer. Where is the fun? Admittedly it is not easy to find, but it is there if you look for it.

One place to look is right around your farm. You will notice there are a lot of people hanging around who are not normally there. Yes, your spouse and kids are most likely working from home and e-learning because school has been canceled. While this can be a distraction, it is also an opportunity to get them involved in the farming operation. Perhaps there are things they can do that they are not normally involved in because of their schedules and other activities. Teach them farming skills they may not have and show them the practical side of studying biology, chemistry, and genetics in school with practical example on the farm. Let’s face it, what else do they have to do?

Farm work can be hard involving long hours and lots of stress. Yet, in moments of candor, I have had farmers tell me some things are just fun. In fact, this past week I had a grower tell me how much “fun” it is to plant. Yes, planting season can be stressful, busy, and risky; but turning over soil and putting seeds in the ground, “sparks joy” for most, in the words of Marie Kondo. I have also seen that joy sparked in the eyes of livestock and dairy farmers as they hold a newborn calf or piglet in their arms. In these trying times, finding joy in everyday things is vital.

Another way to find joy is to focus on the future. The pandemic and its consequences and restrictions are temporary. While it may seem like we have been locked down for ages and are impatient for it to end, it has not really been that long. The farm economy is in terrible shape, and it will be a very hard year financially for many. Yet, the U.S. farm economy is sound and will survive and thrive. It is important to balance our current situation with a long term view.

Keeping a balanced perspective between the concerns of today and the hope of tomorrow is important. Focus too much on the problems of today makes you a Debbie Downer. Focusing too much on the hope of tomorrow makes you a Pollyanna. In either case, people will want to social distance from you. A balanced focus with a mixture of fun will help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression.