From Farmer to Mama: 4 Lessons to help you thrive

I gave birth to my son, Waylon, the same year we started the farm. 

organic farming while pregnant

Back then, I didn’t yet know to question the idea of doing it all.  I just felt a quickening, an excitement, and took a leap. 

We’d searched for land for two years, and while we’d meant to be more patient once we finally signed the deed, we couldn’t help ourselves — that summer and fall we put up a yurt, hired a neighbor to till a ½ acre, and sowed cover crops.

We were ready to start a farm.

Except, as summer came, I couldn’t farm.  At least not in the way I’d imagined. 

The closer I got to my due date, the less I could manage in the field.  I couldn’t broadfork or prune one row of tomatoes without my back hurting.  Eventually, my belly grew so big I could no longer haul 5 gallon buckets of water to the sheep without straining. 

pregnant and farming
Working in the field while pregnant

And the question came: if I can’t farm, can I call myself a farmer?  If I can’t bend,  plant, and prune, or feed the animals, what role do I have here?  

I’d kept a vision of our farm in my mind for years, and now here it was, and I couldn’t participate in the way I’d imagined.    

“You’re doing something I can’t,” Edge would reassure me.  “You’re growing the most important thing on the farm.”

Later, I’d acknowledge that one pregnant summer doesn’t disqualify me from farming, though that first year made me question it. 

After all, even once my body allowed me to return to physical work, I’d have a baby on the outside to take care of, and how would that affect my role on the farm?

I gave birth at the end of July, and my postpartum body required more time to heal than I’d anticipated (so long, visions of harvesting with a 2-week old babe!). 

All the wonder in my newborn rubbed off on me, and instead of feeling upset at what I couldn’t do, I realized what I could:

I could write our CSA newsletters while Waylon nursed or slept.  I could manage the farm website, CSA sign-ups, social media, and bookkeeping.  I could walk the fields and take photos with him snuggled into the baby carrier. 

If I attempted more physical work and found it was too much, I could rock Waylon in the yurt and rest with him.  I could allow myself to simply be present with my child, which gave us both what we needed most: the time and love to stumble through the first year together.

Being a mom reshaped my relationship with farming.

And I’m grateful for it.  The fields became a welcome respite when I needed time alone.  Planting, cultivating, and harvesting helped me remember myself in the midst of young motherhood.

At the same time, I could no longer work myself to the bone.  I had to stop to nurse my child, eat well, and give my body the same attention I gave to my son and the farm.  Without my body, I couldn’t take care of either. 

Looking back, there are a few things that helped me through the first year of farming and mothering.

4 Lessons for new farm moms:

Listen To Your Body

Your body is essential in farming and mothering — pay attention to what it tells you and take care of it.  If you need to rest for 20 minutes, do it.  Small acts of care throughout the day can save you from needing to take long chunks of time to recover.

Let go of pre-baby timelines

I thought I’d be back in the fields full-time within 2 weeks of giving birth (I’ve always been optimistic).  Instead, it took me a month before easing into work — which really meant taking field walks with my baby.  I didn’t fully return to farm labor until the next summer.   

Giving birth is a monumental event.  Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, your body needs time to recover.   Listen to it, tend to it.  It will allow you to be so much stronger in the long run.

Find what you can do  

Whether it’s cultivating for a morning instead of a whole day, harvesting and letting someone else carry it back to the wash station, or tending to the behind-the-scenes work of running a business, find the places you can contribute. 

Having a baby inevitably changes one’s sense of self.  Even if it looked different, having a connection to the work I did before a baby helped me figure out who I was in this new role.

Be present

There will inevitably be days that don’t go according to plan, but as a farmer, you already knew that.  In the midst of changes and surprises, remember to breathe.  Come back to your breath, ground into your body as a plant roots into soil. 

Show up only where you are because that’s the only place you can be.  And ultimately, even the challenges are easier when you’re present.

farm mom scything with baby

Are you a farm mama? 

What have you learned?  What challenges did you face?  Let me know in the comments below. 

Then read this next — To Young Farm Moms: Strength Is In The Softness

6 thoughts on “From Farmer to Mama: 4 Lessons to help you thrive”

  1. Omg this really stuck my heart! Thank you!

    I’m a farmer, well I’m on hiatus. I left my farm to move and be with my partner. So when we were expecting our daughter, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get back to farming, I mean all those Instagram pics of mommas and their babies farming makes it look easy, right?!

    To start off slow (or so I thought) I took on managing the community greenhouse. So when our daughter came I still thought I could do it all and some like I always have.

    That was definitely not the case. It was too much for me to handle as a first time mom. I was trying to figure out who I am, who this new family member was and how to exist!!

    My daughter was born in March. I started in April and I struggled all summer, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I pushed myself to a stressful point and why? To be a farmer again?! I realized I had to first and foremost be a mom and the rest will come with time. Unfortunately it took 5 months!

    I had to step away from that position and take a new look and angle on how I fit into farmer and how farming fits to me. After a baby, you are not the same person anymore. And accepting that is the first step towards finding the joy!

    I love this piece! I have much more to write but will add as a story in our class!

    1. Ahh all those photos of farming mamas can really paint an unrealistic picture! I hope you keep writing about this — opening the conversation and seeing the messy side is so important for all of us.
      I’ve definitely put too much pressure on myself to make things happen fast in the past, and babies have a way of slowing us down in good (and sometimes frustrating) ways.
      Sending you love as you find your rhythm!

  2. Farm momma check-in! I’m a farm momma with a 15 month old son. I thought I would be able to load him up in a hiking carrier and hit the fields. No way! Too hot. I couldn’t bend over with him back there. He likes to pull my hat and knock off my hat. Even tried putting him in a pack-and-play while I worked. Nope. He wanted out, to play amongst the tomato vines.

    To add to the list – #5 Get help. The only way we were able to keep the farm going was to get other people to work in the field or greenhouse while I took care of the little guy. It was also hard because we don’t have a house on the farm. It’s a 35 minute drive, which makes everything a little more difficult, especially the nap time math. So I do the paperwork, print out labels, do invoices, work on the branding and website. We visit the farm every week and my husband watches the wee one while I do a little harvesting or weeding, just enough to get my fix. But it’s still not enough.

    Until we have a house on the farm and the toddler is a little older, I just don’t see myself being able to be a full time “farmer”.

    1. Get Help! Oh my gosh I can’t believe I left that one off — THANK YOU! Yes, getting help has been a huge aspect of making the farm work for us, too. From volunteers in the fields to me asking for personal help, it’s such an important aspect of growth and steadiness.

      Also – I’ve totally tried to bend over w/my son in the baby backpack and quicky realized it’s not doable. Thank goodness for those backpack straps!

  3. Hi there!
    My husband and I moved into our dream property (we bought his mom’s place) about a year ago now, in the early Summer (we live in Ontario), I had at that time a 1 and a 3 years old, and a recovery to a prolapse due to the birth of my youngest. On this property that my husband knew for 10 years and me 7, we were so eager to get things to where we’ve been dreaming them to be for years: running a farm -gardens and livestock, and a wellness studio -he’s a RMT, I’m a yoga teacher. I never been so stressed in my life. Finances were and still are a huge struggle. The farm side sucks a lot from the little we make on the wellness studio side. We were very successful living in town for quite some times, we couldn’t resist the offer to buy the place we always dreamed of owning but the financial stress hurt our family. It was extremely straining to work on the farm pr the studio with our little ones around, we were frustrated, often. Until they got to go to daycare twice a week which helped to have full days concentrated on the place. But I know that without the stress of finances, launching a business and expectations things would have been different. Now, my oldest goes to JK and my youngest to daycare, both 4 times a week. I am now making sure to from school pick up to bedtime I don’t stress over work or tey to get things done more than supper or visiting our garden or our livestock. I still feel guilty about being so stressed and not being the best mom I could have -even though I was still doing my best. I know when there will be slightly older maybe around 6 years old I won’t mind to unschool them and have them around. I didn’t really have a village around me as I’m from France and my whole family is still there. I haven’t had the chance to create a strong friend network either or my friends are in town busy with their families. I think expectations and financial security make the world of a difference in the early years of motherhood.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Financial stress is a HUGE issue for so many farmers (and families who aren’t farming, too). I’ve been in tears many times — starting any business requires so much energy, persistence, and financial resources.
      On the parenting side, I’ve also been hard on myself for the moments I haven’t been a “good mom” but lately I’ve reversed that view — we all have hard times. Our children witnessing them doesn’t make us bad parents. Instead, it gives us the opportunity to model that feeling the hard things and going through them can lead us to the other side.
      While we don’t have in-depth conversations with our son about the details, I’ve come to learn that simply letting him know that even grown ups have hard days, and then showing him how we can turn it around, allows him to grow through his emotions, too.
      I hope that helps! Feel free to email me with any questions or just to connect on farming and mothering!

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