A young farmer bought a new side-by-side at his local dealership. It’s a handy rig for a lot of farm tasks, and the old one needed repairs. Since it was only a few miles to the farm, he decided to just drive the new purchase home. Cruising down a grid road, a back tire fell off.
He suffered nasty injuries: broken ribs, punctured lung, lacerations to his head requiring many stitches and torn ligaments in his arm. Of course, it could have been much worse. Even scarier, had it been a different day, his young son might have been with him.
Apparently, someone didn’t tighten the lugs on that one wheel. He hopes to make a full recovery, but there are some lingering issues with his arm and he has chipped teeth that may need long-term work.
A much older farmer at a different location is suffering from an intestinal ailment. The strong medication he’s taking isn’t always offering relief. He loves farming, but some days he feels so poorly that it’s tough to go on.
He needs to travel to one of several major centres on a regular basis because the medication is administered intravenously. Treatment consultations and second guessing infringe on his days.
These are just two people I happened to visit with recently. Everyone has stories like this from friends, relatives and acquaintances. Eventually, the hands of time catches up with us all, but many have their careers and even their lives cut unexpectedly short.
We all know that guarantees don’t exist when it comes to health and life, yet we tend to continue on as if we’re immortal. Maybe we’re expecting science to come up with a cure for death and old age. This attitude is probably more prevalent among farmers than other segments of the population.
If you’re lucky enough to have a long farming career, maybe you’ll get to grow 40 or 50 crops where you’re the major or one of the major decision-makers.
Many farmers will have far fewer growing seasons, so it’s important to make every one count and have as few regrets as possible. Of course, with dryland farming, you’re not really in charge. Mother Nature has the last word, but you control what you can.
When you hear of those struggling with injuries or major health issues, it puts life and farming into perspective. If you don’t have your health, suddenly nothing else matters.
Many farm accidents are avoidable. We all need to slow down and exercise more caution. The lives of everyone involved in the farm are at risk. Particularly heartbreaking are the cases where children are injured or killed.
It’s also a good reminder to have your affairs in order. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones in the event of your untimely death. Again, we all know this, but we act like we’re invincible.
Health issues that creep up provide more time for succession and estate planning than an unexpected demise, but sometimes the extra time is squandered.
For those of us blessed with reasonably good health, it’s a reality check when we hear about those less fortunate. Maybe your crop could be better. Maybe it has suffered in the recent heat. Maybe you’re double guessing some marketing decisions. Maybe you’re working through equipment re-pairs as harvest approaches.
But think how much tougher any of that must be for those struggling with their health.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.