But, back to the topic of the article. Burnout is something that I am keenly aware of, particularly because of my work in ministry. I know there are many careers out there that have high rates of burnout, but it seems that people in ministry deal with it quite a bit. So, when I saw the title of the article I was very interested (I'm always reading articles about burnout in ministry).
Prior to a grazing conference South African grazier Ian Mitchell-Innes took a walk with Mr. Judy through his pastures. Mr. Judy relates in the article that Mr. Mitchell-Innes had lots of good advice about high density grazing, but the most shocking thing he said was when he was question on his overall thoughts of the operation. He told Mr. Judy that what he was doing was not sustainable because at that time he was running three different herds and grazing systems. The very next day the three herds were combined (except the bulls) and their work load was cut by two thirds.
This just supports what others such as Joel Salatin have said about the importance of maintaining a single herd at all costs, but even more importantly it brings up something else to think about. What about burnout for the part-time farmer or the beginning farmer who is also holding down a town job? How can a person in that situation combat burnout?
First of all, as was the case for Mr. Judy's farm it is important that you let the animals do the work. On his farm one of the reasons that they were running three herds was because their land was spread out of a large area and the thought/cost of moving the entire herd around. Well, they don't have to be trucked around ... what they did wouldn't work every, but they just walked them down the road and stringing wire on either side to keep them going the right way. Management Intensive Grazing is another way to make the animals work for themselves ... so is selecting for easy calving cows and sows that don't lose any piglets.
Secondly, I think it is important that your farm (whether part-time or beginning) is a family operation. If you are able to work together as a family when you are farming then it will seem less like work and less stressful to the entire family. But, the family has to be completely on board.
Third, there needs to be a passion. If you are going to hold an off-farm job and run a working farm it is important that it is a passion not just a source of extra income. When something is a passion you are less likely to get as frustrated (notice I said "as frustrated"!) than if you didn't really care one way or another. Also, a passion to farm will help give you the energy to work and research and study so that you can be the most efficient.
Finally, I think it is important that we don't get in over our heads. Many beginning farmers these days don't have a complete farming background. They are passionate about it, their family is behind it, and they are motivated by new ideas in grazing, crops, and more ... but, they don't always have the hands on experience. For those people (ME!!!) it is important that they don't bite off more than they can chew. Take steps, make plans, and attack things slowly so it doesn't hurt as much when you slide down that steep learning curve!
Here are a couple of quotes from the article about how much the changes have impacted the Judy's ...
"In the future we will grow more grass, better grass, more animal impact, our soil microbes will explode, our ground litter accumulation will benefit, our water catchments will increase, and our labor has been slashed dramatically."
"We now have a life"
"We now have time to think, monitor results and time for leisure."