According to Andrew Van Dam’s recent Washington Post article, The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America, farmers, lumberjacks and foresters love their jobs the most. Lawyers self-report that they are the least happy profession in the United States.
Why in the world would the whitest of the white-collar professions have less career happiness than the bluest of the blue-collar professions?
Farming is Meaningful Work
To quote Van Dam, “Envy the lumberjacks, for they perform the happiest, most meaningful work on earth. Or at least they think they do. Farmers, too. Agriculture, logging and forestry have the highest levels of self-reported happiness— and lowest levels of self-reported stress—of any major industry category, according to our analysis of…the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey.”
The survey also reports that places of worship and the outdoors are the happiest places on earth. (Banks are rated the lowest.) Farming is a job that is outside. All day. Every day. Could it be that farmers are in a church-like (nature) setting during their workday?
Farming is Dangerous Work
But from even the most casual observation, farming is dangerous work. In previous posts, I’ve discussed the perilous nature of farming.
Farming involves a multitude of machines that can injure or kill. Between the power take-offs running from 540-1,000 rpm that can maim in seconds, combine heads that could pull a farmer into personal harm, grain bins full of grain that suffocate and kill, tractors and skid loaders that roll over and crush, wagons that could roll into a farmer and crush them, and high places a farmer can fall from, there are a myriad of ways to get hurt or die on the farm.
Farm Animals Are Dangerous!
And the animals! Farm animals can also hurt and kill. Between the angry 450-600 pound momma sows, charging 1,500 pound cows and 2,000 pound bulls, a farmer must hold safety in very high regard. To put this in perspective, Grizzly Bears weigh approximately the same as momma sows and boars. Cows weigh MUCH more. When we raised livestock, there were many moments of sheer terror while feeding or moving these animals.
Farming is a Scary Gamble
Farming is also a scary gamble. With the trials and tribulations of extreme weather, weeds, bugs, and the gyrations of commodity markets, the phrase, “Bet the Farm” is real and true every time a farmer wakes up to begin the day.
So Then Why is Farming High Happiness?
Despite all of the downright scary elements of the profession , farmers report high happiness. It ain’t the paycheck, the hours, the danger, or the social isolation that makes farming high on the happiness scale.
But what makes it all worthwhile is the quietness of nature, which creates a connection to the land. The farmer has the meaningful work of feeding the world, coupled with the cycles of the seasons; with planting, growth and harvest. Farm families depend on each other, with a family group work ethic unlike most professions. Animals have to be cared for. Crops have to be tended. It’s a never-ending work cycle.
These things are the most important elements in a farmer’s life. A life that apparently makes most of us happy.