Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Worn Out

When we started raising sheep commercially, our focus was on direct marketing. As our flock and our business grew, we started to realize that the time involved in direct marketing (going to farmers markets, hauling live animals to our processor, hauling meat back to our storage locker, etc.) often conflicted with the time involved in actually raising the sheep (moving fence, moving sheep, irrigating pastures, etc.). With more markets and more ranch chores during the summer months, I invariably reached a point - usually around the first of August - when I was absolutely worn out. I couldn't wait for the summer markets to close and for our irrigation water to shut off (around October 15). I'm sure Sami would tell you (as would some of our customers) that I often became a grumpy rancher during most of August!

I was reminded of this today when I visited a friend who raises and direct markets livestock. I was tired just thinking about his endless "to do" list. Small-scale farmers and ranchers, as a rule, are an energetic bunch, but we all have our limits. Now that we are operating on a part-time basis - and no longer direct marketing - the work seems more enjoyable to me during the month of August. Sure, I get hot and tired - and probably irritable - but I don't feel the stress I once did when my list of chores was longer than the daylight hours of midsummer.

I worry at times that the local food movement fails to acknowledge the stress involved in 70 hour work weeks and challenging economics. I fall into tired cliches at times - "work smarter, not harder" is easy to say when you're not worried about who will move the irrigation water while you're selling meat at a farmers market an hour and a half away from the ranch. And while I don't know the answer to making this system more viable, I do know that we ranchers need to go easy on ourselves at this time of year. Take a break. Go swimming with our kids. Move that water tomorrow. If I could only follow my own advice....

No comments:

Post a Comment