Litchfield Students are playing in the dirt! Thanks to the new school garden and renovations to the middle school green house, students are learning how to grow, care for, harvest, and eat vegetables! Three raised bed gardens provided a home for vegetables grown by students which were later harvested and used in the classroom. The hands on education provides great enthusiasm and a sense of ownership of the garden. Salsa making was a highlight in Ms. Rick’s FAC’s class which incorporated tomatoes, onions, and peppers into a tasty treat for students. Apple trees and raspberry bushes were also added to the garden with the Youth Energy Summit Team assisting in the planting of these. Stop out and visit the garden or visit with a student about their experiences of playing in the dirt.
Many more Meeker County residents were able to support the Litchfield Farmer’s Market after August 1st due to new hours which extended the market to 5:30 pm. Community members voiced great appreciation for the change in hours which now provides those who are working with the opportunity to buy fresh locally grown produce on their way home. New hours weren’t the only things that Farmer’s Market organizers worked to achieve. Taste testing, recipes, music and special events for market go-ers of all ages were on the agenda for most market days. The goal is to create a vibrant market and atmosphere that is inviting to people of all ages. The goal is to support local growers and our local economy, increase foot traffic at the market and the consumption of healthy, locally grown produce. Be sure to watch for 2014 Litchfield Farmer’s Market events to be announced.
Grown out of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), One Vegetable, One Community (OVOC) brought people together around food, healthy eating and healthy communities. The idea is to inspire and rally the community around growing and preparing a single vegetable. In 2013, the pepper was selected as the Vegetable of the Year. Through One Vegetable, One Community, we hope that people can grow together, cook together, eat together and learn together, and at the same time build a stronger local food system, increase access to healthy foods, and nurture a healthy community. Below: A young gardener proudly shows off his pepper plant that has matured and ripened. 1200+ pepper plants were grown and given to community members including all 1st grade students in the Litchfield schools last May.
In this three county area, we are abundant with agriculture. Farmers, just like everyone else, can benefit from regular strength training. Why should farmers focus on strength training? Easy. Let’s discuss.
Depending on what kind of farmer you are, you have seasons. ”In-season” might be planting and harvest if you are a grain farmer. ”Off-season” is the rest of the year then. When you are in season, you are probably on the go, your body gets beat up like crazy, and you come home after hours and hours and hours of work with a sore body. Then the aches and pains set in. Realistically, your body cannot handle this type of beat down. It needs to be stronger, and strength training in the off-season is a perfect way to handle that.
Farmers generally drive large pieces of machinery….over rough terrain (plowed fields, for example). Two things happen here. First, your body, already in a seated position with stress on your low back, is getting bounced and jostled around. Well….if you have poor posture and a weak “core,” this can become a recipe for disaster. You lack the strength to actually hold your spine stable, and injuries, or just nagging low back pain can occur. Secondly, sitting in a tractor for hours on end can lead to “lazy” glutes. Don’t read that wrong…YOU aren’t “lazy.” Your glutes are. Lazy glutes mean they don’t remember how to fire correctly, or fire at all. Which means when you pick something up from the ground (a hay bale, a bag of seed, or any other heavy farming object), you probably aren’t using your glutes…you are using your back. This will lead to back pain, or injury, or a host of other ugly issues over time.
Farmers also end up needing some explosive strength every now and again. Really? Yes! Think about it….bags of seed don’t get into the planter by themselves. A farmer has to somehow get it off the ground, or off the bed of a truck or wagon, and hoist it explosively upwards to dump it into the planter. Not a grain farmer? I bet you then have livestock, and they need to be fed or bedded somehow too…probably with a bale of hay or straw. That hay has to be baled and stored at some point…which means it has to be picked up off the ground and stacked. The throwing and stacking of bales is majorly explosive. Think about doing those moves with a rounded back or spine, and you will eventually have an injury. The question is not “if” you will have an injury…it is “when” you will have an injury.
How could farmers strength train? Easy. Keep it simple. Here’s a list of exercises to possibly include:
- Deadlift – in many variations. Start with just a basic kettlebell deadlift to get the pattern down, and move to suitcase deadlifts with weight on one side only to find any imbalances. Consider adding some heavy kettlebell sumo deadlift holds as well to enforce that “zipped up” feeling. Now, picking stuff up off the ground will be the proper way….using the largest muscle group of your body!
- Plank – just a good old plank where everything is working – abs are braced, glutes are pinched, quads are flexed. Stability, stability, stability, and a strong core for the win!
- Turkish Get Up – getting up and down from the ground with a weight overhead will keep you stable while you move, keep your shoulders amazingly healthy, and teach you to work your body “as one.” No individual body parts here…your body parts learn to work together through the entire movement.
- Kettlebell Swing – explosive power! Get your swings in, and you will find throwing bales is no longer a huge chore. Some days swing heavy with low reps. Some days…swing lighter and go the distance.
- Loaded Carry – overhead, rack, and farmer carries here. Use mismatched weights, or just carry the weight on your “less strong” side first, and then your stronger side. Shoulders packed, abs braced, lats firing. YES!
Farming is not only physical, it is largely mental. When your income depends on the swing in the grain price, or the milk price, or the hog/beef price, or the weather….it gets stressful FAST. Honestly, strength training has such great mental benefits that farmers might consider it for just this reason if they see no other value in it at all.
Not sure how to perform the exercises listed above? Contact your local fitness professional to get you started in the right direction. As always, discuss beginning a new exercise program with your health care professional as well.