Happy Friday – if you happen to be reading this on the day it’s published that is. 🙂
Spring is in the air in some places, and even in Minnesota I see melting snow and hopes of 30-40 degree temperatures for the weekend.
I tend to say I like winter until Christmas or New Year’s Day, and then I’m ready for the snow and cold to go. Unfortunately we usually have 3 months of wintery weather to go at that point. Still, mid-March means we are done with the days where temperatures don’t rise about zero.
Cold winter can spark different opinions and emotions in people, but one thing I have never thought about is cold weather actually fostering a better quality of life.
I saw several friends sharing the newest 2017 state rankings from US News and World Report on social media lately, so I browsed through them earlier this week. Best state overall has Iowa coming in first followed by Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota and New Hampshire. For ‘Quality of Life’ North Dakota comes in first with Minnesota again in second. Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and South Dakota round out the top five. Do you sense a theme here? Not only do all these states have large rural and/or agricultural components, they also have distinct seasons and cold winters. Who would have thought?
To quote from the article, “Another characteristic North Dakota shares with other top-ranked states for quality of life – including Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota – is its cold weather. “If you’re in a closed environment, you’re interacting with more people,” Berg says, explaining that people tend to separate and “do their own thing” in more comfortable weather. “And then there’s this cultural aspect that you’re in an environment that’s weather-wise a little more difficult so you do have this idea to help your neighbor out when times are tough,” he says.”
For my part, I need to point out that the Midwest doesn’t ALWAYS have cold weather. We actually have reliably hot and humid summers, but we have distinct seasons. When I ponder how seasons relate to quality of life, I think the rhythm and flow of nature actually benefits us as well. We appreciate the warmth of spring more (mud, insects and all) because it follows the icy days of winter. And we yearn for the crisp mornings and orange foliage of fall because it provides a welcome relief from August heat. We typically enjoy fishing on frozen lakes just as much as regular water, and we have parts of every season we can look forward to. We also have other parts we can be glad we aren’t currently dealing with!
I agree cold weather brings people together. You leave behind the chores of yard work, lawn mowing, or endless projects in long daylight and spend more time at community and sporting events. Or you simply stay indoors to enjoy time with close family and friends. You also don’t feel as guilty about calling it an early night and just curling up with a cup of hot tea or glass of wine in the evening.
Every state has individual merits that make it special, and if you look through the various ranking categories you’ll see many warm weather states on the list too. Don’t be offended if you don’t happen to live in a winter wonderland like me, BUT it does make me feel better to see the merits of my climate being touted. Especially because we just had a wicked snow storm a few days ago.
Another story I keep seeing in the news is the low price of milk. I know I follow farm and agricultural media more than most, but even major news outlets such as NPR and The Washington Post are covering the crisis. Obviously non-existent profit margins and mounting bills cause stress on our farm too, and I’m not immune from financial worries. As a farmer often you find yourself spending all your waking hours either working or thinking about working. It’s a lifestyle more than a job, and it’s deeply discouraging to know you are losing money each and every day as you keep going.
Clearly it’s important to take some control and have: a cash flow plan in place, honest conversations with your banker, and steps to minimize expense and maximize revenue and efficiency where you can. But the price of milk is at a low point many dairies simply can’t recover from. It’s terrible to see neighbors around us selling their herd of cows and know those barns will probably never be filled again.
Numerous dairy processing plants and co-ops have even recently included suicide prevention hotlines and mental health resources in with farmer’s milk checks or newsletters.
Can you imagine finding those types of resources tucked in with your paycheck?
So many injustices and heartbreaking stories can be seen around our country and world that I know we as farmers aren’t alone. And we aren’t the worst off – not by far. I pray for the homeless and refugees and the critically ill before I pray for farmers, but I know all can use our prayers.
I’m also deeply blessed to be a mom and see the smiling face of my almost-two-year-old everyday. Somehow little kids can make everyday brighter and every stressful situation seem less important. We may find ourselves in a difficult year, but no matter what it brings we will work to hopefully come out strong yet compassionate on the other side.