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Farm Fit: from Tractor to Trail

by Nathan Eason
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, UGA Extension

For those of you who have grown up on a farm or who currently live on a farm, one might not think about adding additional exercise into your lifestyle as many of the chores on a farm require physical activity.

I remember my grandmother telling stories of picking a barn of tobacco, feeding the farm animals, cleaning the stalls, and keeping up the homeplace all in a day’s work. The meals she cooked were filling and the meats were fried; butter, fatback, and lard were necessities for flavoring the vegetables and casseroles and getting the biscuits just right– and don’t forget the red-eye gravy! Yet through all of these rich (though somewhat unhealthy) meals my grandmother prepared, served, and raised a family on, she remained thin as a rail. As a matter of fact, all of her young’uns she raised on the farm (including my dad) were pretty lean. Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s healthy to eat like this as long as you’re working hard, but the physical portion of my grandmother’s daily routine kept her in great shape.

Obviously farming today isn’t what it used to be, and fewer people are actually involved in growing the food and fibers that supply the country’s needs. Today, new technology like four-wheelers, various all-terrain vehicles, and hydraulic farming equipment have alleviated some of the backaches, but they have also taken a lot of physical activity out of the daily tasks at hand, causing even us country folk to be a little less active.

I will admit that because of technology we are able to get more done on a farm in one day than compared to the early 1900’s (and that’s a good thing, considering how precious our time is). But have we literally taken too many steps out of farm life?

Anyhow, back to this fitness talk… my point is this: if you have a small farm, large farm, or just a few acres, try to consciously  change how you carry out some of your routine task. Try walking your property instead of always taking the four-wheeler. When you walk your property you’re more likely to notice the details of the farm anyway; you might pick up on a gap in the livestock fence, or you might notice weed problem-areas in your crops. You can better assess animal health and behaviors when walking closely by them. Not only are you more in tune with the needs of your property, but you are burning calories and getting fit doing it.

No one’s property is just alike. If you’re like me, owning a piece of land is something special and taking care of it is number one priority. Likewise, your health should also be a high priority so that you can maintain and share that land with generations to come. So I challenge you to incorporate more safe physical activity into your life while working your property. Maybe not every time, but at least sometimes, pick up that shovel and wheelbarrow before you hop on that tractor…like all good things, your health and your farm will improve over time.