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It’s acceptable to ask for help (Editorial)
(Dec. 6, 2016) Reflecting on our recent special supplement, “Beating the Odds,” focused on farmers and their families who have overcome great obstacles in their lives to continue their farming passion, one theme that continues to resonate is the effect these major events had in farmers asking for help.
It’s a notion that often runs counter to a typical farmer’s independent mindset.
Although necessary in much of the work farmers do, their self-reliance is admirable until it becomes debilitating.
“When (farmers are) having problems, they kind of hibernate, and they don’t seek out help and work with other people,” said Margaret VanGinkel, who manages an assistance hotline at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Farmers tend to be a little more introverted a lot of times. They like working on their own and being on their own. ... The more we can talk about some of those things, the better it is.”
When tragedy strikes a farm family, help and support comes without asking.
So many stories exist of farmers coming together to finish harvesting for a fallen neighbor, working day and night to get animals moved to safety when a barn catches fire or pitching in on the farm while the owners sit bedside in the hospital with their child.
“There’s a special bond in agriculture that you don’t see in other realms of business,” said Jay Baxter, a Georgetown, Del., farmer who lost his father and uncle when he was in his early 20s.
It’s those trying times that a farmer’s resilience is tested and shines through.
“There’s something about the spirit of a farmer that he isn’t afraid to fail,” Baxter said. “If and when we do fail, we get back up and go again.”
Yet, as time passes from the life-altering tragedy and things get back to normal — if there is such a thing — asking for help when it’s not readily offered is so crucial.
“The older men, the farmers, are always available. I had several men help, especially the first few years,” said Travis Hastings, whose father John, died at age 59, thrusting Travis into the driver’s seat of the fourth-generation farm. “They don’t want to offend or step on toes, so they don’t tell you how to do it, but if you ask, they are more than willing to answer questions.”
Craig Bailey experienced that rush of good will from neighbors two years ago when he lost his right hand in a farming accident on his Harrisonburg, Va., farm.
In his recovery and adjusting to working with a prosthetic, he said, “It’s helped me become a little more dependent. What I mean by that is I’m more apt to ask for help than before.”
He said the accident also showed him the importance of talking to and encouraging other people facing major hardships in their life. He tries to more often ask friends how they’re doing and listen and offer help.
“People can help you with that,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. That’s why we’re people.”