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Balancing farming and life: When is enough, enough?

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It’s the season where social media is filled with vacation pictures. Pictures of beaches. Pictures of happy couples and families. Pictures of beautiful places. Pictures of memories being made.

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about the non-negotiables for us — the things that we weren’t willing to compromise on. Looking back, we were just babies so how did we really know what would matter most?

But one of those, for me, was taking a yearly vacation.

Every year, I fight to make sure it happens. I plan around the farm schedule. I wait for the “best” time of year to leave. I book everything within a week of leaving because planning more than a week out is impossible. I do the leg work to make sure everything is ready. I choose and find the location and accommodations. I plan what to take. I pack our bags. I make sure the car is either serviced by a mechanic or I nag … I mean, politely ask … 5 billion times for my husband to look at it so it’s ready to go. I coordinate with my sister, who is the only one who will be around our dog. I do most of the driving to get to wherever we go.

All I ask of my husband is to get in the car and ride.

Going on vacation isn’t important to him. He enjoys them when he gets away, but he could live without them if I didn’t make him go. He loves the farm and everything about it. He doesn’t need a vacation from his life because he loves his life.

However, this life wasn’t my dream, so I absolutely do need time away from the farm. But also, the world is a big place. If we don’t get out of our corner of it every once in a while, we’re losing out on so many opportunities to see new things. Maybe these new things will spark something for the farm.

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Yet in considering to step away for a few days or even a week, there never seems to be enough time. There’s always more work to be done. You know this. If you’re single and living your dream, more power to you! If you’re in a relationship, however, I strongly implore you to take a minute to evaluate when enough is enough. When will it be too many days of not eating a single meal with your family? When will it be one too many fights for a marriage to overcome? When will it be one too many sacrifices and missed events? When will enough be enough?

I’m in a lot of farmer wives groups, and it’s easy to see much of what I experience reflected in them — and reflected in you. I also see a lot of posts from women feeling neglected. Children who don’t get to see their fathers for whole seasons except through a cab window. I understand farming. I understand that when it’s go time, it’s go time. I am a farmer and a rancher. I am also a farmer’s wife. I’m married to a man who would work every waking moment if it was up to him. My question is always, for what?

I encourage you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing — why you’re putting in the hours and making the sacrifices. When are you going to have the number of acres you’ve always dreamed of? When is too many hours, too many hours? What is the end goal? I always think of my FFA advisor’s goal of “being lazy.” He wants the fence line feed bunks and the nice equipment that makes farming “easy.” That’s what he’s working for. What are you working for? Do you know?

I’m not trying to get you to quit working and live on government handouts. I get we’re all trying to survive these insane input prices, and money is always tight on the farm — but if you never see your family, maybe you have too much. Hire the help. Let the rented land go. Do something.

Life is so very, very short. Is that soil more important than having a healthy marriage and doing life with someone who cares about you? Why are you beating your head against a wall year after year after year to never get ahead? With fear of never being able to write for another ag publication again, maybe if you love the beach so much, maybe it shouldn’t be a vacation spot. Maybe it should be your home.

Maybe it’s not worth it just because farming is what the family has done for generations. You get one life. One. Do what makes you happy. Maybe farming is the thing that brings you all the joy like it does my husband. If so, grow all the food! But at the end, I’m going to care more about the people I was with than the fact that we were the first ones done with harvest every year. You don’t get to take it with you. Help is hard to find right now, take care of the help you have! With that, please know when enough is indeed enough for you.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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