Getting away on holiday when you’re a farming family can be easier said than done, getting a farmer away on holiday isn’t just a case of booking time off and deciding where in the world you will go. There’s lots of obstacles not to mention excuses and yes, sometimes it seems farmers seem to be making them up on purpose! Examples will include:
- Too busy
- No one else is capable of looking after the stock / farm like we do
- Can’t afford it
- It’s too expensive to get someone in to look after the farm
- It’ll be too hot / cold / wet
- It’s too much hassle getting ready for it
- Can’t go away during the harvest / calving / lambing / breeding season / summer / sowing / repairing
- Too hardworking with the attitude of ‘better to rust out than wear out’
- Hates flying / travelling
- Miss the farm too much
Why Holidays Are Important
I think it’s more important for farmers (or anyone else working from home) to get away for a break than almost any other occupation. For those not working in the home environment, taking a break means that spending time around the house whether it’s relaxing, decorating or gardening can be a break but it can be incredibly difficult for farmers to actually take time off when in the working environment, let alone feel that they are having a break. Farmers don’t get bank holidays either and if they have staff, the employer probably has to do more work on that day as the staff are off. Dairy farmers probably milk that morning before heading off on a day out with the family and yes, Brian usually milks that evening when we return too. Luckily, our cows don’t object to being milked an hour or two later than normal occasionally. I guess they are as relaxed about time-keeping as their owners! We joke that we should have appreciated our paid holidays when we had them (I got 13 weeks as a secondary school teacher in the UK and Brian got 32 days plus bank holidays as a scientist).
It’s very easy to keep working day in and day out but that can lead to burn out without realising. Getting away doesn’t just recharge the batteries physically, it also increases enthusiasm for getting back to it (well, usually) and having the break away refreshes the brain and helps you to think outside the box too.
How To Persuade
It usually seems to be be the male farmer that objects so how do you get him to agree to getting away for a break?
- If he/she really wants to spend 365 days a year farming, then an agricultural holiday can be the answer: travelling the world and seeing how other farmers ‘do it’.
- Go away at the quietest time of the year on the farm. We go away in January as all the stock are in and the cows are dry so we just need a trustworthy contractor to scrape out slurry, check all the stock and feed them. For some farmers, late summer might be the best time – it all depends on their type of farming, the help available and the system in place.
- Emphasise the health and safety aspect of a holiday being absolutely necessary for one’s physical and mental health. Just because our grandparents never took holidays, it doesn’t mean we have to follow their example. While they worked hard, they often had help and company on the farm. It’s a different kettle of fish nowadays.
- You’ll never get one of the kids to see farming as a great occupation if they see it as ‘all work and no play’. Lead by example. Farmers often need to justify the holiday so that’s one reason. Another is that most work 6.5 days a week for 51 weeks of the year – they owe it to themselves and their family to spend some time together doing different things.
- Go away for short breaks of 32 hours at the very least. We’ve did this two years ago – we had four mini breaks during the summer. We left after the morning milking and herding, stayed out overnight (getting the relief milker to do two milkings) and returned in time to do the next day’s evening milking.
- If all else fails, take separate holidays and do what you like best. At least each of you gets a break away from the farm and you don’t have to worry about anything as it is left in your partner’s capable hands. Our kids would never forgive us for that though, it has to be a family holiday or they just won’t agree to going away.
- If he has a sense of humour about these things, you could try telling him that a holiday would be much cheaper than a divorce!
How To Stop Pining For The Farm
Another challenge can be forgetting about the farm when you do get away. For years we experienced Brian taking two days to ‘wind down’, he’d then relax for about three days and then he’d start thinking about his cows, wondering what was going on and yes, looking forward to getting back to it. We finally cracked it last year and it worked even better this year – if anything, getting away for nine days meant we had post holiday blues for a day when we got back. The secret? Going away to a different temperature than it is at home, it just makes it all seem further away and you can’t compare what it might be like. Another important step is to leave it in the hands of people you trust and they are not to inform you of ANYTHING that is going on unless it is a life or death scenario. You can’t do anything about it so it’s best not to know.
Don’t go to a destination that has lots of farms. You don’t want him pining for his cows as he looks at a dairy herd from the beach. We went to Lanzarote again this year and the only animals we saw were a large herd of about 100 dairy goats while out cycling cross country. Of course, we had to comment on their condition (excellent) and their udders but that was it!
The kids get to see a different side to us too. Last year was the first time we took a ‘sun holiday’ rather than a sight seeing or busy one so they saw Brian relaxing by the pool and reading long novels. I seriously think that up until then they saw me as the bookworm and him as only capable of reading a couple of pages of a newspaper before falling asleep. It gives them that role model for reading books too. All in all, we had a great time and yes, even had a day of post holiday blues when we came back.
Do you manage to get away for holidays from the farm? Do you go far away? Is it difficult to get away? Or would you never dream of leaving the farm to someone else?