8 Ways Farming Helped My Mental & Physical Health
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Although my journey with farming started from a young age while growing up on my families farm, I really didn’t start to see or appreciate the value that it would offer me until 2013 when I was 27 years old. I am a firm believer that things come to us when we are open and ready to receive them and this is a perfect example of that unfolding.
Growing up, the only part of farming that I really enjoyed was gardening, but other than that, I thought I was destined for a big city with a busy lifestyle. In 2013, my partner and I moved home to Manitoba from British Columbia. I had just finished a baccalaureate program, had an unhealthy lifestyle, had gained weight, I had symptoms of Endometriosis and didn’t feel good overall. I thought that I would change all of that once I started working and didn’t have to worry about writing papers anymore or going to class. That summer, I started in a career as a family violence counsellor and was eager to work full time and help people. I have a strong a-type personality so I was organized, and great at compartmentalizing work stress and I could leave work at work and home at home. I was confident that I was letting my client’s trauma stories spill off of me. No big deal.
Baby Steps Forward
In the new year of 2017 I decided to let go of some of my responsibilities at work which reduced my hours of work. Leading up to 2017, my body was becoming more sick and was in more pain and my mind was full. My Endometriosis symptoms were becoming more extreme and my mind was starting to feel overwhelmed not only because of my work but also my physical health. Everything negative was compounding and feeding off of each other.
My first step of letting some hours of work go was not working Friday’s, which my employer was very generous with. I supplemented going to work on Friday’s with going out to my parent’s farm (which I still do to this day). I assist with whatever needs to be done and go home at the end of the day, only to come back out the next because it makes me feel good. Over the years I’ve identified that there are two areas of farming that offer me an abundance of both physical and mental therapeutic value and joy - working with our cattle and gardening.
8 Ways Farming Helped My Mental & Physical Healt
Cattle offer me a sense of calm and peace. I have spent hours and hours just sitting and observing our cattle. Not for any ranching or statistical reasons, just because I feel so relaxed around them. There has been something so valuable for me and (I think) the cows of doing nothing but observing and getting to know each other. Over the past six years, I’ve developed friendships with some of them and acquaintances with others. I’ve learned about each of their personalities and what they like and don’t like. Some of them have allowed me to take care of them in the form of grooming. All of this has allowed me to slow down, get out of the daily grind, and just, be.
The power of moving my body and breathing in the fresh air (even in the winter) is underestimated. I find that I crave the fresh air when I’ve been in the city for more than a few days. It was something that I didn’t really think about before. I feel more energetic and fresh, even when I’m doing simple tasks such as weeding the garden or bedding a box-stall. I truly value my 2-3 days outside in the country every week because I come back to my week feeling better.
Through sickness, I have found more appreciation for health and life. In 2016, I started exploring and implementing a plant-based diet, I have found that I’ve reduced my symptoms of Endometriosis which in turn has helped my mental health. All of this has motivated me to come back to my roots of providing others with fresh, spray free vegetables just as I did as a child when my family participated in local farmers markets. I take great pride in my garden, weeding by hand instead of using chemicals, talking and having encouraging conversations with my plants and using only organic fertilizers. I feel so connected to Mother Nature during the gardening season and I’m so fulfilled when I can provide others with safe, healthy food too.
Grounding. There is literally nothing more grounding than having your bare hands and feet in the soil. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to do this practice when the world feels like it’s too much. Sometimes when things feel like too much, I consciously give myself permission to water my garden with my tears and shovel away worries from the week, releasing tension and healing from within. I never work with gloves on my hands, and rarely work with shoes on my feet. I’ve found that I intentionally move slow in the garden (and around the farm in general) to soak up every last second of the soul-nourishing power of Mother Nature.
Being on the farm allows me to be (unconventionally) productive with my time. For many of us a-type folk, going to work, earning the money, crossing the things off of our long to-do list every day makes us feel super productive - I know, I am the a-type person! However, the value of being out on the farm breathing the fresh air, hanging out with my cows and taking care of my plants has allowed me to be more productive in my 9-5 because this is my version of self-care and I’m intentionally carving that time out for myself and have made it a priority!
Gardening is a unique and personal practice, just like a fingerprint. Where we live, a lot of people have gardens and a lot of us plant the same things, but we all have different ways of planting, growing and harvesting. Some of us have learned lessons that have been passed down through generations, other’s have learned it from a book and some have went to school to learn the best way to plant, grow and harvest. All of these methods are so valuable and I love talking to other gardeners about their methods because we can continue to educate ourselves through community. Although I’m an introvert through and through, I do believe that being apart of a supportive community is essential to mental and physical health.
Patience. Building relationships with cattle and waiting for plants to transition from sprout, to establishing themselves and finally maturing takes a lot of patience and so does our own personal mental and physical health journey. I would say I’ve been fairly impatient most of my life, but I’ve slowly found value in life’s transitions that include beginnings, middles and ends (when applicable) because they teach us so much about ourselves along the way.
I am growing and nurturing myself. Although I first started helping my parents with their farm more as a way to practice some self-care, I had no idea just how much it would actually allow me to take care of myself, but also grow my relationship with my family from such a deep place. For the first time, I feel as though I’m getting to know myself and my family at a deeperlevel and I have just loved and found joy in taking one, slow, step at a time. I’m gaining love, friendships and food for my body, my heart, my soul and my mind.
Did this post speak to you? Let us know what helps you take care of your mental and physical health below.
Take care and be kind to yourselves, Root & Sprouters!