This past Monday marked Labor Day, and if you were like me, you took advantage of the long weekend to see family and take a break from your everyday routine. After all, that is the purpose of Labor Day, right? A day off from the office? An extra day to go to the lake or have a barbecue? A respite from farm work? Never the latter, you might say …
While your neighbors frolicked in the ocean a final time before the cool of autumn sets in or went camping in the mountains before school resumes in full swing, many of you hobby farmers spent Labor Day, well, actually laboring. You may have taken the opportunity to mow the new property, harvest the last garden spoils of the season, paint the peeling barn, or get started on the fish pond you promised your children this summer, but never quite got around to. In other words, the laboring continued despite the declared day of relaxation and fun.
While, I personally took a “non-work pledge” on Labor Day, it didn’t prevent me from at least thinking of what I needed to do in the office this week or what kind of house chores I could check off my list with my extra day. As I started thinking about writing this blog post about Labor Day, the phrase “labor of love” popped in my head.
So I started thinking of the people in my life and what their labor of love may be. For some, it’s obvious. My husband repairs bicycles all day at work and rides home to tinker on his friend’s bikes and his own for hours. He’s found his labor of love in all-things cycling. My artist friend’s labor of love is spending every minute away from her day job, creating beautiful photographs that inspire and enact change in others. For my yogi friend, it’s about dedicating her life to helping others improve their bodies and minds for short- and long-term health. For others, like you, farming—whether as a hobby, a profession or a mix of both—is the ultimate labor of love. Your early mornings of milking cows and collecting eggs turn into late evenings of canning and washing and drafting a long list for your next supply order. It’s labor-intensive, but you’d rather do it more than anything else. Are you exhausted at the end of the day? Definitely. Do you wake up the next morning ready and eager to do it all over again? Totally. It’s your labor of love.
As artist James Whistler once said, “An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” I would say the same is true for the farmer. Taken as one day, you might find that all the labor and time you put into your farm doesn’t pay for itself. But taken as a whole—as a vision—you are greatly rewarded. Your vision for your farm and what it is and can be be pays off, maybe not always monetarily, but by the joy and pride it brings you, your family, and the community who benefit from your hard work and endurance. Next time you feel exhausted, overworked and underpaid, remember all the chores and tasks you do each day are a part of your bigger vision—that’s why it’s all worth it.