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No-Shave November? Farmers need a month too


As we approach the end of November, or Movember, or No-Shave November … as many refer to the month, we can’t help but wonder … why there isn’t a month just focusing on farmer health?

One of the most dangerous industries in the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports of the 1,854,000 full-time workers employed in production agriculture in 2012, 374 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, a fatality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.  From overexposure to dust and ultraviolent rays to added stress from droughts, floods and financial concerns, farmers are subjected to many acute and chronic health risks.

At the same time, those outside the industry are now looking to the farm life to complement their exercise regimen or nutrition plan. The Farmer’s Walk is one of the more popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) moves. How does one execute a farmer’s walk? Pick up two heavy objects, hold them by your sides, and walk as far as you can without dropping them. (Maybe just grab two five-gallon buckets and help out with chores, right?)

There is also a diet plan for those looking to replicate the farmer’s daily cuisine. In his book, The Hunter/Farmer Diet Solution, Dr. Mark Liponis explains that genetics is largely responsible for the differences in how we respond to food and that our genes determine whether each of us has a Hunter or a Farmer metabolism. The farmer diet?  A nutrition plan that’s low in fat and full of healthy grains.

While there isn’t a month currently dedicated to farmer health, some organizations and local farmers use the month of November to celebrate anyway.

‘Fovember’ is an initiative sponsored by ICOS, the Irish Farmers Journal, and Full Health Medical,  in conjunction with Movember to focus on men’s health, specifically farmers. Earlier this month members of the Irish Farmers Journal and Full Health Medical teams were on hand at the cattle sale barn Ennis Mart to carry out health checks and raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society as part of their campaign.

U.S. farmers are also participating in No-Shave November … however the reasons to do so can vary from a hunting accessory to a necessity for keeping warm this fall. Raising awareness for men’s health issues is also important to many of the bearded participants.

Part-time farmer Blake Thompson decided to take up the cause the cause this November. Thompson, who grew up on a dairy farm near Monona Iowa, said the men in his family don’t have a history of any health concerns, but bringing attention to the issue is the first step.

“Raising awareness is a good start,” Thompson said. “I also believe that by taking an active approach to my personal health ensures that I will be there to take care of my family.”

Thompson, his wife, and their three daughters live on his wife’s family farm. Whenever Thompson has free time from his full-time position as head of facilities and maintenance for ORA Orthopedics in the Quad Cities, he is out helping his brother-in-law bale hay, plant, and run the tractor during harvest.

While this is Thompson’s first official No-Shave November, he usually sports a beard for hunting season. Thompson said the first two weeks were a little rough with the sharp whiskers, but the beard is keeping his face warm now. The beard also symbolizes why farmers should be proactive with their health.

“I think that men should take their health seriously, in a lot of health issues early detection is always a key to having a successful and quick recovery,” Thompson said.

Maybe next year the U.S. will consider a ‘Fovember.’

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