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How non-ag friends helped me through a ‘lost summer’

Theo Scholze for Progressive Dairyman Published on 13 September 2018

I am writing today with a slighter different tone and feel than posts of the past. We are finishing off one of our more challenging summers here on our farm – a “lost summer” in the words of my brother and farm partner. Let me provide some background to bring us to Sept. 1, 2018, and the feeling of a lost summer.

Obviously low commodity prices are the beginning of that feeling. Everybody understands the added stress when income is substantially lower than in the past. The second thing that made this summer a struggle was after two years of engineering, design and work with local DNR and NRCS offices, our application for a manure project was rejected. We had been anticipating being able to do a massive update and improvement of how we store and handle manure, which would be more cost-effective for us and better for the environment and the community. To be rejected was a blow.

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The final and most devastating thing was our mom receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis and passing away in early July at the age of 64.

All of these things are very different stressors and can affect everybody differently, but the experiences of this summer have made me very grateful for my time off the farm and out of agriculture. These experiences allowed me to develop relationships that have been a great help to me this year.

Friendships with others directly involved in agriculture are absolutely vital to being successful, so please understand I am not minimizing them – just pointing out my appreciation for friends who don’t work directly in the ag industry. The past couple of years haven’t been the most uplifting in the dairy industry, so while visiting and talking with other farmers, there are plenty of negative feelings to go around. In that vein, other farmers have been a great help while discussing cost-saving ideas and how to navigate a tough economy, but most seemed to be about emotionally tapped just dealing with their own stress.

When mom passed, friends in the ag industry were able to offer condolences, but that seemed to be about all they were able to offer for emotional support. This is where my non-ag friends came through with flying colors. I cannot express enough what it meant to me for them to reach out to see how things were going and if there was anything they could do to help.

Two people in particular stood out, and I would like to try and express what they meant to me. One of them was my college roommate who is now a project manager in the construction industry. His dad was killed in a work accident, and he reached out to me a couple of weeks after my mom’s funeral with some words of encouragement. He said he remembered from his experience that once all the arrangements are over, the reality sets in and things get hard.

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The other was a high school classmate of mine, who I wasn’t particularly close to. She is currently working a full-time job plus working with her husband to open a bar/restaurant. She also lost her mom to cancer within the past couple of years. To be able to talk to her over lunch about both the physical and emotional toll the experience was having on the family was one of the main reasons I felt like I was able to keep going. It also helped me understand what I was feeling wasn’t unique and that it was perfectly normal.

In closing, I just want to encourage all of you to make an effort to have a circle of friends that extends outside of agriculture because you never know when you will need to rely on the emotional support of others, and there may be times when our friends within ag may not be able to provide it. I hope that I never forget the help that my non-ag friends were in a tough time, and I hope I am able to return the favor to them or others in the future.  end mark

Theo Scholze
  • Theo Scholze

  • Dairy Producer
  • Humbird, Wisconsin
  • Email Theo Scholze

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