What Makes Farming Worth It?

A life lived in farming, is a life well lived; though it does not come without obstacles, hurdles and heartache. It’s not a glamorous life with it’s late nights, early mornings, dirty boots, hard work, tough decisions and foiled plans. It can be isolating and depressing but somehow it is wonderful still.

So, what keeps farmers going? Why do we put up with the heartache  and uncertainty? I’ll admit I have looked at my own husband and asked, why can’t we just have a house in a town somewhere with 9-5 jobs and a paved driveway?

I think farmers are built a little differently. I think the wives or the husbands that fall in love with them accept that and move with them to where they need to be. You have to understand that you can’t change a person, no matter how many J Crew pants you buy them. (I’m still learning to love the tapered leg jeans my husband prefers.)

I’m not city. But I’m not totally country either. I’ve had the farming bug most of my life. I bought my first Jersey calf when I was nine years old. I had a little insight into the heartache and the responsibility that goes along with owning, and caring for animals. My very first calf, Annabelle, got sick when she was very young and we had to let her go; but I loved her still. This experience, along with many others, helped me to make this choice to farm with my husband with my eyes wide open.

And there has been heartache. There have been dearly loved old cows laid down to rest. Young heifers lost by a spell of bad luck. Baby calves that don’t get over the trauma of a difficult birth. Days where two steps forward gets you three steps back. It does not happen very often but when it does, it feels like a ton of bricks gently laid down or dropped on your chest.

But this writing isn’t about the heartache. My question is, what keeps people farming, if not financial return?

For me, it’s mostly about the animals. It’s the cow who somehow finds herself on the other side of the fence separated from the herd and shows up at the back of the house, bellowing as if she knows you’re in there and you can fix things.

It’s the promise that a newborn baby calf brings, especially when she looks at you with those big brown eyes. The latest calf born, LBC, had a tough time walking on his back legs and took a little longer to get up and gangling around. It’s the moment you realize he’s going to be just fine walking on his own.

Towanda, on the left with white on her head, got a little help from a friend when she was first born. Notice how much smaller she is - the other calf was only 10 days older.

Towanda, on the left with white on her head, got a little help from a friend when she was first born. Notice how much smaller she is – the other calf was only 10 days older.

It’s Towanda, age 7 now, who was born too early, in a cold, frozen free stall barn whose mama abandoned her that I nursed back to health with many towels, a hair dryer, some help from my brother and another friend and a lot of hope. At one point, she made the most milk of any of the Jerseys, though she’s still a peanut of a cow.

It’s the rush you feel when all the cows surround you in the pasture as you walk out to greet them.

It’s the beauty of the place around you and the sun on your face on a crisp October afternoon while your son is on your lap and you take a spin around a few fields on the gator.

It’s the fact that your son’s first word was “tractor” and the greatest thing on Earth is to ride in his daddy’s lap while he gets the day’s feed for the cows.

Maybe we need the heartache. Maybe it makes these things all that much more endearing; entwining our beings with farm life so that you have no choice but to give it your best. All your best, and it’s your’s to protect.

Some people are born into farming, some have the seed planted early in life, like me, and still some are bitten by the bug much later in life. Whatever the case, it makes us what to do the best we can for the land and animals so the life we live might be lived again.

What keeps you farming despite the heartache it can bring?

About Joanna Lidback

Joanna Lidback, together with her husband, operates the Farm at Wheeler Mountain, a diversified dairy farm located in Northeast Vermont, where they milk registered Jerseys and Holsteins, manage a grass-based cropping and grazing program and run a Jersey beef direct farm sales business. Joanna volunteers as a board member for the Global Farmer Network and has testified in the US Congress on the topic of societal benefits of biotechnology. With an Applied Economics and Management degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Babson College, she serves as a business consultant with Yankee Farm Credit.


  1. The steps ahead are always greater than the steps back…love this post Joanna! And see…I knew you knew how to operate a blow dryer 😉

  2. Susan britt says:

    What a beautiful post – thank you!

Speak Your Mind


%d bloggers like this: