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Till & Talk: Make the most of meals during farming’s busy season

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I’m tired of sandwiches being the choice of food when we’re in the fields. What other options can we have when we’re not at the house?

It is that time of year again isn’t it? So, few of our meals are consumed in the house for the next few months. I feel this question to the bottom of my soul and I think so many other farmers do as well! My husband doesn’t care what he eats. Give him food of some variety, and he’s good to go. Don’t have time to make food, just give him Mountain Dew. Me, I like variety and a complete meal.

During our busy seasons in the field, it normally coincides with one of our three groups of cows calving. That being said, I’m normally checking the cows at our house twice a day and can run inside really fast and heat something up for the evening meal so we can have one hot meal. Now, don’t misunderstand me, a lot of the time we don’t have anything made ready to heat up, so it’s frozen food that’s already prepared, sometimes by me when I’m on top of my game and have freezer meals ready … and sometimes it’s chicken nuggets and pizza rolls.

Depending on your operation, sometimes you need one-handed meals; sometimes you can get away with meals that need silverware. For example, our planting equipment has auto steer, and I can make things that require two hands. Our haying equipment doesn’t, so it’s one-handed meals.

I’m sure I’m way behind the rest of the world here, but I recently discovered portable microwaves. They plug in to your cigarette lighter and in 30 minutes-ish you have a hot meal. I’ve ordered one, and it didn’t work, so it got sent back and haven’t taken the time to order another from another manufacturer. I’ve heard great things about the HotLogic brand. I can’t confirm it is all it’s cracked up to be since mine isn’t here yet, but I’m excited to try it for some variety.

Lastly, my only other advice is remembering there are seasons on the farm. Planting, haying, grass season for cattle, and harvesting seem to run together on ours with very few breaks in between. Farming is stressful year-round. Farming is more stressful when you don’t feel good. Understand your body. If I ate and drank pop like my husband, Matt, I would be comatose on the couch feeling horrible. It works for him, for a while anyways. Eat food that is going to make your body feel good so you can get all the work done.

Fruits and vegetables make good snacks in a lunch box. If you don’t have time to clean fresh, buy the frozen variety. Buy the little kid applesauce pouches so you can squeeze it without a spoon. Hard boiled eggs, string cheese, apples, Clementines, bananas, peanuts, trail mix, and fruit cups are all great choices for snacks that don’t require two hands and very little, if any, prep work, but are also fueling your body with good stuff.

Field-Meal-Ideas

This graphic is one I saved out of a farmer’s wives group that I’m in. I don’t personally know the creator, but this list is handy to have around. If you like the suggestions, give her a follow. I’m sure there are dozens of similar ones out there, but it’s nice to print and put on the fridge when you’re stuck.

Good luck!


mothers day farm

Mother’s Day snuck up on me. What last minute gifts would she like?

I dream every year of being prepared for this day. Of having a nice, thoughtful gift all prepared for my mom and mother-in-law. It never happens, so I understand this question!
First and foremost, depending on the age of children, mom might want a day together or a day apart. For those in the trenches of toddler and young-kid rearing, mom might want a day to herself. Rent her an AirBNB for the day so she can go relax and be completely alone or do whatever she wants.

For those empty nesters or with teenagers, she might just want a day together with no bad attitudes. If she’s in to gardening or plants, spend the day planting with her. If she likes crafts, do a family craft day. Think about what she does in the limited spare time and do it with her.

Regardless of whether she wants to be alone or with her kids, I think there are very few mothers that wouldn’t like a meal cooked for her that she doesn’t have to cook or clean up after. Again, depending on the age of kids involved, she might really enjoy a hot meal that she can focus only on feeding herself and enjoying the food.

Some last-minute gift ideas: flowers, plants for her garden, a nice pair of leather gloves in her size, something to make her life in the kitchen easier, etc. Some gift card ideas: to her favorite store that she doesn’t buy stuff for herself in, restaurant gift cards so she doesn’t have to cook at all, if she likes pampering maybe a spa or manicurist, etc.

I’m only a mom of four legged kids, so am really guessing at what moms want here. Every mom is different and every mom has a different way in which she feels the most love. This is where knowing her love language would come in really handy. If you’re showering mom with gifts when she’s a quality time mom, it’s probably not going to be the thoughtful thing you thought it was.

Just understand that Mother’s Day means different things to everybody. For some it’s a reminder of babies lost or babies they can’t have. For some it’s a reminder of mothers that have passed. For others it’s a reminder of a mother that wasn’t a part of their lives. If you have a mother figure in your life, blood or otherwise, bless her with some love year round, but especially on Sunday. I think the gifts or trinkets mean less than the thought.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer and the author of Till & Talk, a regular AGDAILY column that answers reader-submitted questions about modern agriculture and rural life. Kelsey grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. She 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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