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How can I minimize the toll on my body from the physical labor of farming?

The physical stresses of farming concern all farmers, particularly those who are no longer in their twenties.  Career changers who come to farming later in life, often from office or non-physical jobs, are particularly concerned about potential physical damage. There's no reason to stop farming as you age, however.  By carefully managing your body and adjusting your farming practices you can keep farming!

Strategies:

  • Hire labor with stronger backs.
  • Custom hire certain farm tasks.
  • Switch enterprises to those that are less physically demanding, e.g., from squash and potatoes to culinary herbs or from cattle to sheep.
  • Acquire equipment that lightens the physical load on your body.
  • Think about transitioning the farm operation to the next generation - a family member or non-family partner who can be the brawn to your brains - and who could eventually take over the farm when you retire.
  • Attend to your personal health: engage in stretching, yoga, or other stress-reducing and body enhancing practices.

Resources:

  • The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, which serves Massachusetts as well, offers many resources about farm safety and best practices for taking care of your body as you farm. http://www.nycamh.com/.
  • Mechanizing Your Small Farm is an online tool that can help you decide what kinds of equipment are appropriate for your operation. Available at www.smallfarm.org/mechanization.
  • New England Land Link can help you locate young farmers who might take on a role as junior partner or manager. Click here for NELL.
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