When we were deciding whether or not to be farmers, there were a lot of pros and cons on our lists. Living in the middle of nowhere (pro), taking on a bazillion dollars debt (con), and raising our kids on the farm (pro), were some of our biggest considerations. Somehow, we never talked about what holidays would be like on the farm.
Before we farmed, Bart worked for the USDA as a lab tech. The lab was closed for all federal holidays (and he got other pretty darn good benefits.)
Now, it doesn’t matter if it’s a federal holiday, religious holiday, or severe weather emergency…there are no days off.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we were scheduled to get a new flock of turkeys. 20,000 poults arrived at 7 am on Saturday. While many people were still recovering from overeating and over-shopping, we were in the barns working.
We weren’t complaining, though. The timing was perfect for us. Bart’s aunt and uncle and their 4 boys were still in town, and they came to help.
Unloading turkeys with three generations of Olthoffs that morning was one of the warm, fuzzy moments in farming. Watching them work together early on a Saturday morning over a holiday weekend exemplified the concept of a “family farm.”
(A side note, it’s moments like these that I can NOT believe people call our farm a factory farm. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s efficient. Yes, we raise our birds indoors. But our farm values - animal welfare, safe food, the environment, and keeping our farm around for the next generation – are the same now as they were when Bart’s grandpa started raising turkeys almost 6 decades ago.)
The fact that our turkeys were scheduled to arrive over Thanksgiving break turned out to be a blessing this time, because we had extra help. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
The holidays can be a tough time for farm families because the work just doesn’t stop. The livestock literally can’t wait to be cared for, and chores take precedence over any holiday celebrations. In fact, many holiday traditions on the farm evolved because of the animals’ schedules.
I’m part of a facebook group for farm wives, and there was a one-of-a-kind discussion in the group this weekend…
Of course, farmers aren’t the only ones who have to schedule their holiday celebrations around their work schedule, but it’s kind of neat to see the traditions and schedules of a small sampling of the 2% of Americans who live on farms, don’t you think? It’s definitely not something I thought much about before I started farming.