COLUMBUS, Ind. — Plant the seeds, milk the cows, mow the
grass, spray the weeds, attend farm meetings, cook dinner, sleep, wake up and do
it all over again.
Sometimes being a farmer, farmer’s spouse, family member or
caregiver is just about being, echoed Elaine Froese, a speaker and writer on the
keys of balanced living in a complex form.
An active farm partner in her family’s certified seed
business in southwestern Manitoba, Canada, who handles plenty of off-farm
demands, she spoke to a large group of women at the Purdue University Women in
Agriculture Conference about strategies for living a balanced life.
Froese began writing and speaking about balanced living in a
complex world in 1987, though she traced the path that led to her becoming a
sensei back to her experiences in 4-H around age 9.
One of the central pivots of her talk was that farm women
especially must make time for themselves and put their wants and needs into
“Many of you are here because you are exhausted — it’s
February, and it’s almost planting season,” she said. “You may leave the
conference with many ideas, but will it make a difference? There’s an old
Chinese saying that talking doesn’t cook rice.”
Farmers face many different driving challenges on their
farms and may feel they must keep their problems secret, face unaffordable
lifestyle pressures, be too busy with community to have time to plan, juggle job
and farm work, fear a forced exit and cope with fragmented family life, all of
which can make them feel the crunch, Froese said.
Sometimes they are involved in a farm family conflict or are
facing challenges around farm succession planning, she said.
Froese reasoned that the goals of success, security,
happiness and progress are not linear.
“A lot of people want to be going forward in their farm
role, but we’re all unique, and what works for me may not work for someone
else,” she said. “All of you as farm women have a voice.”
Froese cited the birth of her daughter as a turning point in
her life, during which she struggled with one of the worst cases of postpartum
depression her doctor had ever witnessed.
“We have many hats to wear in managing life’s roles, from
the personal to the couple, family, friends, work, farm business and community,”
Froese donned the wedding veil she made in 1981 during the
talk, joking that she has used it to deter mosquitoes when picking raspberries
in the garden. She regards it as a symbol of her frugality, she said.
The presenter was surprised to learn from an audience poll
that many women considered themselves to be in the cocooning phase of the cycle
of renewal, in which they are focusing on spiritual renewal, growing themselves,
finding a new sense of purpose and inner peace while participating in new
training, counseling, spending time with friends or transitioning jobs or
engaging in hobbies and interests.
“In a North American country, there is the attitude that
people who turn inward are withdrawn or weird, but this is much to be learned
from introspection,” she said. “I don’t answer my cell phone on Saturdays and
Sundays, and I don’t sleep with it.”
She said her passion is to work on the Froese Farm and help
see it through its challenges to a happy future.
“We each have our own unique skills and talents we can bring
as farm women,” she said.
“Make sure that in addition to all your professional plans
for the farm and your family that you are making time to have fun. Also, keep a
stash of almonds, granola bars, baby carrots or other food and snack often.”