Why Farmers and Homesteaders Can (and should) Vacation

Reader Contribution by Shelby Devore-Farminence
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If you run a farm or a homestead, then you understand how much work goes into running it every day.  Many of us feel blessed to wake up each day and tend to our gardens and livestock.  But we also understand the fatigue that comes with hard work day in and day out.  Many farmers and homesteaders feel like they can’t vacation or leave their farms.  I want to explain how we manage to run our small farm, vacation 3-4 times a year and keep our sanity!

Plan Ahead

This may sound obvious, but planning well ahead of time will make sure that your vacation gets off on the right foot.  It’s not a vacation if you’re worrying about your farm and what’s going on the whole time that you’re gone.

Do you have plans for a big project? Maybe you want to finally put those shelves in the tool shed or strip out the stalls.  Plan to complete this project before you leave. It’s never a good idea to leave for vacation when you’re in the middle of a project.  I’ll tell you from experience, you’ll spend your entire vacation thinking about the fact that you should have finished that project before you left.

Start writing stuff down, and early.  You’re going to have to find someone to take care of the place for you while you’re gone.  More than likely, they’re going to need instructions on what to do.  I like to start writing stuff down about two weeks before we leave, so I know I’m not forgetting anything.  Write all of the instructions down, even if it’s something that seems common sense to you (fill the feed scoops three times to the top for the pigs, water the tomatoes at the ground, not the tops, etc.) . That way your helper will have more than enough information to go by.

Find Good Help

If you live in a rural area, you’re probably surrounded by other people that farm or have animals.  If you have livestock, hit up some of your neighbors that also have livestock to look out for your animals while you’re gone.  If you just have a garden, see if you can offer some of your crop to a neighbor while you’re gone in exchange for taking care of it.  I’ve found that many of my neighbors will take care of my garden for me each day in exchange for the vegetables that they pick.

If you are limited on help from your neighbors, hit up your local 4-H or FFA chapter.  Young kids interested in agriculture make some of the best help.  There are kids out there that would give their right arm to spend some time on a farm.  If you have a local chapter, contact the advisor and see if you can hire some help. 

As a former FFA advisor, I use FFA kids to help me around the farm all of the time.  They don’t mind getting dirty, feeding the animals or handling gardening or small maintenance tasks while we’re out.  I even get pictures of what’s going on around my farm while I’m gone.  I don’t know who has more fun while I’m gone: me, or the kids taking care of my livestock.

Relax, You Deserve This!

One reason that many farms and homesteads fail is because the owners get burned out.  Take a break every now and then, even if it’s only for a couple of days.  Reset your mind and give your body a break.  You’ll come back to your farm ready to tackle anything your farm can throw at you.  Heck, you may even enjoy yourself while you’re gone.

Shelby DeVore is an Agriculture Educator in western Tennessee, where she works with education companies to create study materials for college students who are interested in taking the certification tests to become agriculture educators. She also works as an Agritourism Consultant to help farmers increase visitors and promote their commodities. Connect with Shelby atFarminence.com.

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