Living to Farm? Or Farming to Live?


I recently attended the Iowa Women in Agriculture conference, which pulled together women working on farms ranging from hobby farms to commercial hog and grain operations.

The individual concerns rising from women’s stories throughout this two-day conference were reflective of the realities in rural America. And if I heard it once, I heard it 100 times: farming is hard work. Many of the women at the conference were putting in 60-hour weeks to keep their farms productive, manage the marketing and social media, and remain a viable part of their rural community.

Nicole Jonas, of Red Granite Farm in Central Iowa, won’t deny that working on her vegetable and perennial flower farm is physically and logistically demanding. When vegetable season is in full swing, she can be harvesting, watering and transporting products to farmers markets from dawn to dusk. “But I love it. I live to farm, I don’t farm to live.” She has put systems and processes in place that make her work on the farm more streamlined and efficient.

For example, when she first opened her business with her husband, they had people stopping by their farm 7 days a week, at all hours of the day or night. Jonas realized she had to put boundaries in place for the sake of her mental health and family time…even if it meant losing a sale. Sunday afternoons became sacred for her family, and a CLOSED sign went up on the barn door where people typically purchase her plants.

“I’m limited on my time to do things, so I’ve learned to say no and even to charge more for my work,” says Jonas, who also does landscape consulting.

Women need to change the mindset of farming just to live. When your work and life are not in harmony, the day can feel like a drag. Even the small chores on the farm feel like moving mountains. Here are some quick tips to shift your mindset toward better harmony in your working life:

  • Understand what an imbalance is to you. Maybe 60 hours of farm business work is heaven in your mind. But if other parts of your life are starting to falter, that could signal imbalance.
  • Learn about the drivers that create stress for you. Is it overdue accounts? Inventory control? Not enough food in the house? Stress drivers are different for everyone. Learn yours, accept them, and then put systems in place to reduce that particular stressor.
  • Get tools to restore harmony to your work/life balance. There are so many great technology tools to help with managing your to-do lists. Do some research online. One of my new favorites is a tool called IFTT, which stands for “If This Then That”. This tool connects the apps and devices you love with systems that automatically trigger reminders or scheduling.

Jonus says each day is a balancing act in her business, but she wouldn’t want to live any other way. That’s living to farm. Visit Red Granite Farm online at: