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No sick days on the farm

No sick days on the farm
I suppose it was inevitable. When my husband came home sick with a nasty cold, I hoped that I wouldn’t catch it. But alas, three days later, I woke up with a sore throat and a head full of gunk.

I tried to camouflage my red nose and puffy eyes with make-up because I didn’t want to miss work. Even though I know you should stay home when you’re sick with a cold or the flu, I have a hard time taking sick days.

When I was a kid on the farm, my dad never took a sick day. He always had cattle to feed, sows to check on and, in the wintertime, bookwork to finish before the tax deadlines approached.

I remember mornings when my dad’s eyes were red and puffy, he couldn’t take a breath without coughing, and he struggled to put on layer after layer of clothing to fight the winter chill so he could start his morning chores.

For many Iowa farmers, there isn’t such a thing as a sick day. They have dairy cows to milk, a truckload of baby pigs on the way to the barn, or a nearby ethanol plant that needs a corn delivery immediately.

Farmers are also the care-givers when a cow brings a new calf into the world, or when a hog gets sick and needs medicine or a few days quarantined away from the rest of its barn mates.

And farmers don’t just take care of their livestock. They’re usually the ones to stay home with a sick child, especially if their spouse works full-time in town.

I still remember the time when my dad made a run to the dime store (or what city folks call the pharmacy) when I was sick as a kid. He came back home with a new picture puzzle to keep my spirits up. We worked on that puzzle together over the noon hour, listening to the farm markets on the radio, until he had to go back outside and finish his chores for the day.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you’re sick and contagious, then don’t hesitate to stay home from work. My dad certainly should have stayed in bed instead of working through illness.

But his motivation was a little different than mine. I’m trying to keep up with emails; he was putting food on people’s tables. It’s hard to take a sick day when so many families, here at home and around the world, depend on a farmer’s work.

 Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau