What’s in a Job?

Greetings my lovely readers, from snowy Minnesota!

Today is a day to talk about jobs. I’m not talking about the “I-aspire-to-work-in-a-skyscraper-so-I-can-make-the-big-bucks” kind of job. No, I mean the physical and manual labor jobs that most of us were threatened with as kids when we didn’t want to finish our homework.

“Now little Johnny, you better finish your homework so you can do well in school this year. You don’t want to end up being a [insert manual labor job here] when you grow up. Do you?”

Well, what I want to know is when did we all become so afraid of physical work? Actually, I must admit that I kind of borrowed this idea from Mike Rowe, host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel. Ever seen it?

I’ve long been a fan of this show (thanks to my husband) because it’s doesn’t glamorize or “sex-up” dirty jobs, but it gives an honest look at necessary jobs people do everyday. While watching a YouTube video of a speech Rowe gave to a group of Silicon Valley execs (think Google, Cisco, and Apple), this phrase really jumped out at me, ““We’ve declared war on work. As a society. All of us…”

You can watch the full clip here; I warn you – it is over 20 minutes long,  but worth watching.


Anyhow, basically Rowe explains that we need these people and we need to quit marginalizing them. We also need to start valuing work again and ditch the mentality that we would be much happier if we just had a little more money, more time off, or an easier job. In reality, it’s more about attitude. He even goes on to say, “People with dirty jobs are happier than you think…As a group, they’re the happiest people I know.”

I feel I’m in a unique position to look at this issue because I have a 9-5 office job, and I also put in many hours on our farm. I know what Rowe is talking about when he says that people with dirty jobs can be happy. Completing a difficult, physical task gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose that is hard to duplicate. You also don’t have some of the stresses that come with corporate politics or “climbing the ladder.” I certainly don’t think it’s bad to work in an office, but I also see the merits of physical work and not being afraid of a “dirty job” per se. Lots of things we do on the farm, like spread manure on the fields and trim hooves on cows, have even been featured on “Dirty Jobs.”

I also don’t think dirty jobs mean you can’t be prosperous or educated. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but you may be surprised to learn that both my husband and I have four-year college degrees. Both of my husband’s parents are also university grads, and his great-grandpa earned a teaching certificate. None of us are lawyers or doctors. All have been farmers (on the same site we farm today) and his great-grandpa taught and farmed. All these generations believed in the value of education, and knew that managing the work, the finances and the business of a farm well is not an easy task.

I’ve been waiting for the right post to share this link, and I think now’s the time. I belong to an organization called American Agri-Women, and one day they emailed out a very poignant blog post from a lady named Ann Voskamp. The line the struck me the most of all her words was:

“It killed my Dad that he worked the dirt to pay the taxes to pay the checks of teachers who told his kids that working the dirt wasn’t worthy work.”

The quote above links to the whole post, and I definitely recommend that you read her thoughts on the people who “bring food to our table.” Like Ann, I just refuse to believe that working the land and caring for animals isn’t worthy work – even though I also had teachers growing up that belittled agricultural aspirations.

While I’m posting links, I may as well add another good one to the bundle. A blog I’ve started following, written by none other than a farm wife, puts a whole new take on the issue of work and exercise when she talks about The Secret to Weight Loss – Farmer Style. When I read this post a few days ago I thought it would fit right in.

As the post says, exercise and improved general health for many people is really just about moving around more. I’m no expert on this, but I know I’ve read and heard that moderate levels of physical exertion are generally as good for you as any 20 minutes on the treadmill, for example. (And this coming from a dedicated runner :))

I don’t really know what to say next, so I think I’m about ready to wrap up. I want to assure you that I think everything from administrative work, to retail, to education, to medicine (and more) is important to our economy and our world. I don’t write any of this to beat up on other jobs. I mainly write this to remind people that dirty jobs can be noble and there is a lot value in physical labor. Besides, if you did manual labor all day, you wouldn’t have to scramble to fit in any gym workouts you didn’t want to 🙂

Care to discuss? Do you think I’m dead wrong? Have any new thoughts or stories to share on the subject of work in general?


About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), This and That. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What’s in a Job?

  1. sweatykid says:

    Did your teachers really belittle farming like that?! That pisses me off. What kind of whacked-out prestige hash were they smoking? Because uhhhh… on the spectrum of important jobs I’d say food production is, ya know, sorta on the crucial end of things. Hey professor, where does YOUR lunch come from? Oh, the grocery store? Riiiight. It just appeared there in aisle five one day all on it’s own. Magic!

    Going off on a tangent here, but that’s a common theme in school systems and college/career counseling offices in secondary schools: they place SO MUCH freaking emphasis on “going to college,” even though that’s not the right option for a lot of kids at that point in their lives. Vo tech schools, apprenticeships, service years, and other pursuits don’t get presented as worthy options, and people graduate high school thinking that if they aren’t white collar, they aren’t even worth looking in the eye. Even worse, these days you’re barely even allowed to tie your own shoes if you don’t have a master’s degree in your field, let alone secure a job in said field.

    In that respect, society has definitely swung in an extreme direction to devaluing physical work. I bet we’ll start seeing that pendulum swing back in the next couple decades.

    Okay, one last point before I end this superlong comment (sorry about that!):

    Mike Rowe is my celebrity love. He’s a really, really good singer. And have you ever seen any of his old stuff from when he worked as a QVC host? He is hilarious and blatantly makes fun of some of the ridiculous products. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rChjMRfi40c

    • Lisa says:

      Great comments; to answer your first question I would say sort of. I had teachers that clearly thought private colleges and liberal arts degrees were better. I was “smart” so that should be my path, but I honestly didn’t see the value for me. I knew I wanted to go to college (which you correctly pointed out is not the right path for everyone) but I also didn’t know what I wanted. I’m from a rural area so some of my teachers had farm backgrounds and understood it. In general I don’t think they worried or thought too much about ag. I long questioned whether I would actually want to farm for life because in reality there are SO many jobs connected to agriculture that don’t involve actually farming.

      I guess I shouldn’t be talking because I do have an undergrad, but you are so right that technical degrees and training programs are the backbone of many jobs and they are a good choice – that may actually help you get a job!

      My H was explaining to me that Rowe was also a singer. Glad you know some of his past fame too!

  2. Brittany says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head! I agree 100% with you. I work in a doctors office Mon-Fri 7-3, but if I could I would much rather me working out at the barn doing chores, cleaning stalls and riding. Why? Because to me that is real work….not that other jobs aren’t but I guess a “desk” job lacks the physical aspect.

    • Lisa says:

      Office work is definitely draining too – just in a different way! I think another goal is to try and do the best work we can wherever we are, and then support and appreciate all those jobs around us too.

  3. lifeisbeachykeen says:

    I love this post. I often feel “embarrased” because I didn’t go to college and I don’t have a bachelors or masters degree. Yes, I am going to school to get my medical coding certificate, but its not as “prestigious” as those coveted degrees. I work in a medical office as an office manager {well, I do everything}. Chris doesn’t have a 4yr degree and he works a “dirty job.” He literally comes home filthy some days, ha ha. I often wonder what people think when they find out what Chris does. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I love him, and he provides for me, but I just wonder what other people think because he doesn’t work in a big tall sky scraper, he doesn’t make a 6 digit salary, and he wears jeans and boots to work.

    • Lisa says:

      I think you can be proud of you and your H because you both work hard ( plus you’re doing school too) and you contribute to society. We need all kinds of jobs, but where would we be without our working middle class? I give thanks for husbands that wear jeans and boots to work! What would we do without them?

  4. Bree says:

    I think being happy in your work is most important. I know first hand having a college degree doesn’t guarantee anything. I enjoy physical work when I do it. A few jobs in college were fairly physical and even though I was tired at the end of the day, I felt like I accomplished something. The same can’t be said about sitting at a computer for 9 hours. Scrubbing the dirty, sticky floor of a kitchen restaurant or bar isn’t glamorous, but I did it. Oh and in regards to exercise, I learned a lot about how many calories are burned doing non-traditional exercise when I had my Go Wear Fit. Some of the days I didn’t work out but did housework, cooking, cleaning, errands, etc were some of my highest daily burns.

    • Lisa says:

      Being happy is important, and I think a lot of times happiness is almost more of a decision than a feeling. I posted a comment on someone’s blog the other day along the lines of “If we waited until we felt good to forge ahead, we might be stuck in a giant rut for a long time before we did anything.” It’s always easier said than done. It seems like I can’t quite wrap my fingers around what I want to say, but I think it’s maybe just about respecting all jobs and trying to do your best work at whatever we do. If you need to make a change – than go for it and work hard. I guess if I was an expert on this stuff, then I’d be making the big bucks consulting on it instead of rambling about it on my blog 😉

      I also worked in the foodservice scene in high school, and I agree it can be physical, demanding work.

  5. Brit says:

    I am frustrated by the push for everyone to go to college today. Yes, we need people to go to college, but maybe it is not always the best choice. I have many friends who were talked into going to expensive private liberal arts colleges after high school and in many cases, that was not a good decision. All too often, they ended up with huge student loans and non-descript degrees that did not readily lend themselves to jobs with the earning capacity to pay off said student loans.

    I have a lot of respect for farmers and anyone else with a physical job. The hard work that farming and other physical jobs involve often translates to hard work, sticktoitiveness, and self-reliance in other aspects of life. I think we could all benefit both mentally and physically from doing a little more hard work.

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