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November 2020: Farm Byline

Love farming too much?

by Al Gustin


The online description of Sue Balcom’s latest book, “Women Behind the Plow,” reads: “Interviews with women who farmed before rural electricity. Learn how these women survived on the prairies of North Dakota with large families growing their own food, harvesting and threshing, cooking and canning.” Balcom says she was impressed by the women who, despite the hard work and sacrifice, absolutely loved life on the farm.

We are enjoined to find a job we love. It’s a favorite of commencement speakers: “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” A veteran farm broadcaster who I know and respect wrote, “I was always so radio-crazy that I arrived at work early and left late.”

And so, I was surprised, even a little disappointed, when I read the headline that asked, “Is it possible to love farming too much?” The article was written by Dr. Val Farmer, a well-known clinical psychologist and syndicated columnist who specializes in rural mental health and family relationships. When I read the headline, I immediately wondered, “Is it possible to love anything too much – my wife, my children, my job, my country?”

Dr. Farmer makes a number of points in the article, but central to his argument is his belief that if you love the farm too much, you will neglect other aspects of your life. He says, “Putting the farm first distorts priorities. The farm competes with meeting important emotional needs such as emotional intimacy, recreational companionship, family commitments, obligations and special occasions, domestic support and parenting.”

That’s true, of course. But those dangers are not unique to farming and ranching. The same dangers exist if one loves office work too much, or trucking or teaching. It’s also true for those who love fishing too much, or golf.

The answer lies in a balanced lifestyle. But you still can, and should, love your job. This Thanksgiving, as you offer thanks for the blessings in your life, I hope you can include a job that you love, and the lifestyle it offers.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.