OFA encourages self-care for farmers as we navigate a stressful growing season by: Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture


It seems ironic that not too long ago, I injured my foot doing what I love to do to relieve stress – walking for miles on our country sideroads. I should have stopped when I felt the initial pain and taken a few days off. Instead, I kept going, and after a particularly rough day, I pounded my frustrations out on the pavement instead of lightly walking them off. When I got to the doctor’s office, the paper she gave me said this will take a few months to heal, not just days, using alternate exercise, ice, rest and stretches.

I have been embarrassed to tell others. In my mind, it shouldn’t have happened. I thought that I could just work it off, ignore it and keep on trekking. Oftentimes, that isn’t the right answer. This is true for both our physical and mental health too.

Farming is a profession of optimism and hope. We choose genetics and plant seeds with the hopefulness of reaping the rewards of our labour; but it doesn’t always work out that way. The success of our crops, livestock and farm businesses depends on our wise management and decisions. It is also dependent on things completely out of our control, and this growing season the weather has been relentless for some of us. Mother nature can be our industry’s biggest friend or biggest foe as we cross our fingers and hope for favorable growing conditions.

Across the province and our industry, inclement weather threatens the livelihood of the farming community. Southwestern Ontario is struggling with an overwhelming amount of rain as heat loving crops take on too much water. Eastern Ontario is dealing with damaging hail that causes significant crop damage. Northwestern Ontario has reached the point of crisis with a drought that has led to crop failure, limited access to water and a feed shortage for livestock. Some farmers are being forced to make life changing decisions.

We see and hear you. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)  is in your corner and wants to remind our farm members that they are not alone. This is a stressful growing season, the outcome of which is still unknown, and we want everyone to know it’s okay not to be okay.

You, our province’s farmers have done everything in your power to secure the success of your livestock and crops. You invested your time, money, sweat and heart into this year’s growing season. No matter the outcome, it’s imperative to remember a poor growing season is not a personal failure. The two are not mutually exclusive, nor does one growing season define you as a human being. Please be patient and kind to yourself.

Farm life is busy and as we juggle its daily demands, we often forget that the farm’s most precious resource is the people behind it. Always remember, you are your farm’s most valuable asset. Put your well-being at the top of the priority list to ensure that you are physically and mentally healthy to continue on as a proud Ontario farmer.

When you’re tired, learn to take breaks and rest. Practice self-care by making time for the activities you enjoy, and spending time with loved ones. Self-care might seem selfish, but it is proven to help reduce burnout and ensures you show up ready to give tasks your best effort.

If your physical and mental health allows it, offer support to those in your community that need it. If ever you’re in need of assistance, they will likely return the favour. We’re all part of the Ontario farming community and we all contribute to the greatness and success of our industry.

When it all seems too much, and you’re overwhelmed, it’s okay to ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. There are people and resources available to help.

Remember, we’re all in this together. Lean on your community and band together to help each other through. Check in on your neighbors, friends and loved ones to see how they’re doing. A phone call or visit can make the world of a difference to someone who needs a helping hand or listening ear. We cannot control the weather, but we can control how we show up for ourselves and each other during these challenging times.


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