When I married a city girl, I gave up my acreage in the country and my dream of owning livestock. But I am constantly reminded of the benefits of country life. You get to see more sunrises and sunsets than most and the tranquility can be existentially soothing. You have space to do what you want and your starry nights are glorious.
The benefits are seductive. But I was recently struck by four advantages I had not given a lot of thought to but contribute to your happiness.
1. You’re tougher
I was reading an essay on how to raise good children and was impressed by the insight of Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset who noted there are really only two categories of people, as every other category is beside the point: There are those who make demands on themselves and those who don’t. Those who make demands on themselves are the better for it. They are better spouses, fathers, mothers, workers and leaders. Those who don’t make demands on themselves tend to fall into the lazy, self-absorbed department.
While those in the make-demands-on-themselves category doesn’t apply to every farm family, farm success depends on them because they are self-employed, not civil servants. Farmers who don’t show up for the job will soon not have a job to show up to. The best of them are innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders. Farms are tremendously positive places for producing better people because they have a banquet of opportunities to make demands on themselves in so many ways, including loving their spouses and children. I would say it’s a necessity. They live with them and work with them. They need to get along with them. And it’s here on the farm where even children learn to demand of themselves as they learn the value of hard work.
2. Farms are healthier
One more study out of Europe last year found that children on dairy farms are less likely to develop respiratory disease because they breathe in bits of bacteria found in dust that triggers a response in the lungs that protects them later.
About 20 studies have found that children raised on farms have relatively low rates of allergies and asthma. So, without lifting a finger — this benefit only requires breathing — geographic location means you’re healthier.
3. The farm is better than daycare
While some farmers might wish there was a daycare centre nearby, in most cases they are the better for not having one. Last year, three well-respected economists released a study tracking the toll on children in the Quebec daycare system.
“The study found that exposure to Quebec daycare increases problem behaviours, like aggression and anxiety and worse, criminality, particularly for boys, “ wrote Andrea Mrozek, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. “For girls, there is a decrease in altruism.”
This confirms decades of research that the first six years of life are when children develop the capacity for healthy relationships. It really reinforces what we already know. No one would want to be raised by anyone else other than his or her parents.
4. Large families are happiest
I was working in the mid-Atlantic Ocean on the island of Bermuda when one of my journalist colleagues told me that only farmers can afford to have a lot of children because they have the space and they need the workers. That’s just part of the story. But it does seem like farmers have larger families than most.
Every large farm family I have met was convinced that the best gift they could give their children was another sibling. They are among the happiest families I know and research again confirms it. In a study published last year, Australia’s Edith Cowan University found that the happiest parents are those with four or more children.
Author Dr. Bronwyn Harman spent five years interviewing hundreds of parents and set out with the assumption that more children made one less happy. She based her results on resilience, social support, self-esteem and life satisfaction. To her surprise, she found that parents of large families typically planned to have a large family and got great joy out of their children.
I know you didn’t need another reason not to move to the city. But on your long list of “why I should stay put,” you now have four more.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.