A Publication of WTVP

Farmers Need To Relax and Reset – to Respirate – Too

by Rob Sharkey |
Emily and Bob Sharkey

Every good corn farmer knows that a plant needs to respirate — a chance for the corn to rest at night and prepare to grow the next day — at certain times in order to thrive. We understand plant stress and the effect on production or final product (yields). We do everything in our control to reduce it, knowing a less-stressed plant is a more productive plant.

Imagine being in a constant state of stress without being able to catch your breath — like lifting something heavy and having to hold it continually for hours. Eventually, you need to put it down.

Farmers are really no different than that corn plant. We face so many stresses daily. Long hours spent trying to finish planting or harvest before the season is gone are only part of it. Decision-making, record-keeping, equipment purchases… We even have to worry about what world governments are going to do. And the farm stress may even be minor compared to what is going on in our personal lives. All these things can wear you down to the point of exhaustion.

We all need a way to respirate…

Now, I’m well aware that this is something much easier to say than do. We have responsibilities in life that require us to always be “on top of things.” Often, I sit and think about how nice it would be to only have to worry about my own mistakes, but that’s not the way the world works. Stress upon stress adds up and we deal with what we can. If you think you are in control in life, try getting your teen to stop playing “Call of Duty.”

Find something a complete step away from what is stressful in your life.

Relax and reset. How many farmers say they relax in the tractor or unwind while checking crops? While that can be enjoyable at the end of a long day, it’s still part of your job and impossible to separate from the stress of the farm. Work life and personal life are often so intertwined it’s hard to separate one from the other. To truly reset you have to set a boundary. You need to find something that is a complete step away from what is stressful in your life.

I used to go hunting for a mental break. However, it no longer works for me. If I sit in the stand and hear a tractor in the distance, I start to think about things I should be doing on the farm. I think, “If I get down now, I could be doing something productive in less than 30 minutes. I should be doing that instead.” Hunting was actually stressing me out and I didn’t even realize it.

So now what? Fishing? Yoga? Basket weaving? No, because I would still be focused on the farm and what was wrong with it.

The only thing that I truly get lost in is riding a motorcycle. A few years ago, I found a couple of old Honda 400s for sale, so on a whim I bought them. I had never driven a motorcycle, so I thought starting with a small bike was a good idea. I loved it, the way that you have to be aware of your surroundings. I truly got lost in it.

Now, I realize that I looked like a lollypop on that Honda, and it wasn’t very comfortable, but I didn’t care. Five years ago, when I got the opportunity to have my own show on SiriusXM, my wife bought me a present to celebrate — a Harley Davidson!

I was actually giddy as I jumped on for the first ride. As I headed down the road, all my problems just started to melt away. I was respirating!!

All of the world’s issues were there when I got back, but I was able to reset. For me, it actually opened up some creative juices. I was coming up with new ideas and calming down. It seems so silly to say it out loud, but riding that bike helped my farm.

So, what’s your motorcycle? What is an outlet that will help you truly respirate? What can you do to ensure you take the time to do it?

Over the years, I have interviewed many guests on my SharkFarmer podcast who have faced some tough mental struggles in their lives and found ways to come out on the other side. Here are a few you have to catch:

  • Episode #324, Chelsea Bland Smith: She is an Arkansas veterinarian who struggled with depression and getting through vet school.
  • Episode #245, Chris Beaudry: He was the assistant coach of the Humboldt Broncos in Canada when the team bus was in an accident and 17 lives were lost. He was the only one left to identify the victims. He not only was able to move forward but was able to forgive.
  • Episode #262, Dr. Kim Stevens: From Galva, Illinois, Kim also is a veterinarian who talks about how the stress and rigors of that profession can sometimes be overwhelming. (We also featured her on “A Shot of Ag” on WTVP PBS. Here’s the link:
  • Episode #096, Jonnie Roughrider: He likes tattoos and motorcycles. However, his views on preventative maintenance when it comes to mental health are what makes this worth a listen.

How do you respirate? Shoot me an email at [email protected] or let me know at