Farmers' Gross National Happiness

After recently meeting a student doing IB (International Baccalaureate) exams on Gross National Happiness, I was inspired to write about "Farmers Happiness".

Gross National Happiness is as distinct from Gross Domestic Product. GDP is a financial index of economic well-being which includes a lot of negativity and has very little recognition of the environment and its people.

The GNH (Gross National Happiness) concept originated in Bhutan over 20 years ago and is now used internationally to measure human wellbeing.

So how does that relate to farmers and their Gross National Happiness?

It is akin to Triple Bottom Line, where business is not only measured by money or profit. It is all about what is good for the people, what is good for the environment and what is good for the economy. Many national companies are now focusing and embracing triple bottom line.

So what makes us farmers happy?
  • Enough feed for livestock is probably number 1. There is nothing that will make us more unhappy than the lack of feed for our beloved animals. This is one of the big positives with high input dairying. Adequate, balanced, quality feed seems to be a key point here. Healthy, heavy cows compared with lighter cows on an all grass dairy system, or more 'rationed' type operation, seems to be the difference.
  • Enough money. Enough to pay the bills, to pay the mortgage and give the family an adequate, comfortable way of life.
  • Enough time to tend to matters, whether it is family, projects or off-farm hobbies and associated interests.
What do we need to do to embrace this Gross National Happiness?
  • Do be good to people and staff and treat them with respect and kindness.
  • Do be kind to your own family because they are your main support mechanism. I have written previously about the role of your partner in the business. It's like the power of 2. Two people working together can achieve the work of three.
  • Do be kind to your animals.
  • Do be honest to yourself about all matters and to others.
  • Do try hard and apply yourself to your tasks. Do the job properly the first time.
  • Do attend to problems immediately and try to resolve them. Don't procrastinate.
  • Do have a written plan and stick to it.
  • Do enlist the support of good consultants, solicitors, accountants, and so on.
Find happy people to mix with and keep away from negative, interfering people. Negative people can pull you down, even when they think they are trying to be your friend. If you find somebody you connect with, call them up and have a coffee and a chat.

Try to find a true friend and make a verbal agreement with them along the following lines. "What is said between us remains confidential." We hear the old adage - you can count your true friends on one hand – that is so true. Making and keeping a good friend requires effort, time, honesty and integrity.

You see, being happy on the farm is a mixture of many things.

Owning multiple properties can give you a short term buzz, but once the novelty wears off, are we really happier? Do the neighbours like us more? Are we a better person? Probably not.

However, sometimes we suppose that we will be better off. My answer to this presumption is that the person who has more than one farm may not necessarily be happier than their neighbour. My phone often rings with farmers feeling left behind and left out as their presumably happy neighbour buys another farm. We cannot presume the neighbour will be happier.

In summary, happiness on the land can be elusive. We have all the trappings that should make us happy but often they don't. We need to focus fully on what does make us happy, and give that part of our life more time. We need to realise that farming is a total involvement, 24/7. We need to break the pressure and ensure we get more of what makes us smile and happy. We need to stay away from negative people. We need to realise being happy is a choice (we can choose how we feel!). And we need to find a good friend who we can be honest with and bare our souls in a time of need.


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