A Little Bit Western


When the Going Gets Tough….

Jul 30, 2021

It’s hard to think about much else right now other than the dry conditions that so many of us are faced with. Across much of the Prairie Provinces and the Northern Great Plains, farmers and ranchers are dealing with drought, water shortages, and pests. Years like ’61 and ’88 are often referenced at the coffee shop and around the kitchen tables of producers who are old enough to remember those times.

The summer is speeding by, yet somehow things also feel like they are at a standstill. One day stretches into the next, another pasture is checked, another scratchpad filled with numbers and figures and plans, another dozen phone calls are made. Tangible and timely solutions are hard to come by yet there is an abundance of questions. How will we get through the year? What about next year? What will the winter be like? Will there be any help?

I’m an (annoyingly) optimistic person and even I’ve become discouraged at times. I don’t have any answers to the hard problems everyone is faced with, but when things seem bleak, I try to shift my focus on what I can control. It’s not precious bales of hay, or tonnes of silage, or subsidies, or even rain that will pull us through (although sign me up for all of that, please and thanks). I’m learning that the most valuable resource we have and need is right in front of me – people.

When the going gets tough, find the helpers. Some people complain and some people figure things out, but now is the time to dip into your network, identify your problem-solvers and stick with them. It’s very easy to get sucked into a vortex of worry and “why me?” but for every fool out there, there’s actually a positive person lurking too, you sometimes just have to work a little harder to find them. There are many farmers and extension folks who are willing to share their experiences, provide insight or tips, ask a question you haven’t considered before, or provide simple reassurance. Putting my energy and time into talking to people who have fresh, innovative ideas or the wisdom that comes from decades of experience has been a good return on investment so far.

When the going gets tough, get a puppy! Okay, perhaps this is not sound advice. Perhaps you should consider visiting family and friends regularly as a feasible and intelligent alternative. But I’m not going to lie, our new border collie that arrived this month has been a welcome distraction. I’m almost at the point of being an obnoxious dog mom, which is highly unexpected behaviour for me. We have also been lucky to connect with some non-furry family members this month, allowing us to recharge our batteries and provide us with some much-needed grounding.

When the going gets tough, focus on what you do have. Low yields and dwindling water might pull our attention toward what we don’t have, but we should remember what really matters. Do we have our health? Are the people we care about safe and well? I’m keenly aware that we are fortunate to check those boxes, but not everyone is. Do we have enough food in our pantry to sustain ourselves? Past generations of farmers who dealt with harsher conditions had to make do with less. We are lucky to not have those worries.

Without a doubt, this year will leave a permanent mark on farmers’ memories and be a defining time for many. As the old saying goes, every drought ends with a rain, and someday, this one will be over too. But the people will endure.

Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.

Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.


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