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  • Monica Kramer McConkey

Harvest Hostility

The scenario goes something like this:

Rain clouds are on the horizon. Weather forecast reports chances of rain every day for the next 3 days. You have hay down and are trying to get wheat off. A belt goes on the combine. The implement is closed and there are no spare belts that size in the parts room. It’s as if all forces of nature are coming together to conspire against you. Add to that immediate stress the fact that commodity prices are low, you can’t keep a hired man on the farm to save your soul, and the argument you had with your spouse days ago is not resolved.

This is the perfect storm for Harvest Hostility.

Reality is that during harvest when you are using your equipment, your equipment will break down. When you are working from sunup to long past sundown, you are going to be exhausted. Your hired help will not work as hard as you do or care as much. You will feel like you are carrying the weight of past, present, and future on your shoulders all at the same time. Given that reality, it is not a mystery why harvest time is especially stressful and can push people past their ability to cope.

The key is to know and understand the reality of your situation and work to mitigate the stress and damage that can come from anger and frustration getting out of control.

First, make sure you are meeting your basic needs. Drink water, eat regular healthy meals, take medication as prescribed, and get as much sleep as you can. This doesn’t “fix” your stressors, but helps you deal with them more effectively.

Second, focus on what is on your plate now. Reliving past mistakes or questioning past decisions is not helpful. Anticipating future failure in “worst case scenario” thinking is not helpful. Discipline your thinking to remain on what is in front of you and what needs to be dealt with today. Delegate when you can. Trim your to-do list. The way you think and what you think about directly affects your feelings…which directly affects your reaction to those feelings.

Third, keep the rational, problem-solving, prioritizing part of your brain engaged. When you allow emotions to take over, you lose the ability to think clearly and communicate effectively. Take note of when feelings of anger or frustration start creeping in. Immediately account for what thoughts are causing those feelings. Back up and deal with the thoughts. Make a plan. If it’s a breakdown, focus on the repair vs. the rain that is on the way. If it’s raining, focus on tasks you can get done while harvest is paused vs. feeling anxious over the crop getting wet in the field. Separate out what you can control vs. what you do not have control over. Focus on the controllables.

Reining in Harvest Hostility is not easy and takes a lot of practice, but you can do it! For more resources on managing farm stress, check out my website www.eyesonthehorizon.org


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