by Jack Wax
The animals that should be treated with the greatest care on most farms aren’t getting the attention they need. It’s not the health of livestock that is being overlooked: It’s the humans out in their fields or gardens all day or taking care of their animals. Farmers start out young and strong but as they age, they are more likely than other groups to suffer from joint problems, painful backs and bad knees and hips.
Everyone already knows that farming is one of the most dangerous ways to make a living. Safety around large animals and heavy equipment is a life and death matter. But few farmers consider the long-term health effects of day-to-day lifting, kneeling, stooping, twisting, shoveling and weeding — the activities that define the workload of most organic market farmers. The result? Approximately one-third of farmers and ranchers are limited by arthritis, according to the USDA AgrAbility Project. Surveys of farmers in the United States and other countries show that as farmers age, they not only suffer musculoskeletal problems but that their aching, damaged joints make them more prone to serious accidents.
The flip side is that the physical demands of farming can be a good thing. Young farmers can grow into old, healthy farmers. Back pain can be avoided; arthritis can be prevented or delayed, and daily aches and pains can be tolerated without developing into major joint or muscle disorders. But it won’t happen by chance. Experts agree that to stay healthy, farmers, such as 26-year-old Eric Elderbrock and his peers, need to be aware of the potential damage they are inflicting on themselves and learn how to take care of themselves. Continue Reading →