The Culture of Farm Work and It's Implications on Health, Social Relationships and Leisure in Farm Women and Men in the United States

By Bolwerk, Carol A. Lueders | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

The Culture of Farm Work and It's Implications on Health, Social Relationships and Leisure in Farm Women and Men in the United States


Bolwerk, Carol A. Lueders, Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract This ethnographic study on 15 farm women and men in Southeastern Wisconsin focuses on their work and its implications on health, social relationships, and leisure. Beginning in childhood, farm women and men learn the cultural meaning of work which in turn affect their health and safety, leisure time, and social relationships. This study embodies the social culture of work in farming. Ethnographic data supports that farm work is never ending, leaving little time for off farm leisure. However, the data also supported positive implications of farm work creating family unity, source of identity, and self-worth.

Key Words: Culture of Farm Work, Rural Culture, Health-Social Relationships in Farm Women and Men, Leisure

"I suppose I really believe work and life are one."

-Unknown Author

"Work as if you were to live 100 years."

-Unknown Author

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: THE CULTURAL MEANING OF WORK

Farming is a way of life. It exemplifies work that never seems to end. The above quote represents American farm families. According to Gulley (1974) and Lewis (1991), the value of work has high ethical significance in farming. Agricultural beliefs and values of today's farmers arose from conditions in both colonial America and Europe stemming from Protestantism. The Protestant work ethic exalted the concept of work to a level of religious, personal, and social significance. Farmers work to have dignity a value of achievement and the morality of self-reliance.

This work ethic continues to powerful in American farming, and has direct, be an influence on all aspects of a farmer's life. Farm work has clear advanta&es and benefits as a way of life; however, the value and meaning placed on work can be detrimental. Long hours of farm work have contributed to injuries, psychological stress, conflicts in relationships, and other health care and safety problems and concerns (Bushy,1993).

Psychological stress has been linked to how farmers view work (Bushy, 1993, Labao and Meyer, 1991 and Lorenz, Conger, Montague & Wickrama, 1993). The meaning of work held by farmers has generated expectations and standards by farmers for other workers hired to work on farms. When expectation for hard work from others have not been met, stress and frustration has been reported, Additionally, stress can have profound effects on relationshops between spouses and their children.

In summary, farm work is viewed as positive, contributing to family cohesion, discipline, and high moral values. Work is associated as a fundamental cultural value in farming (Gulley, 1974). On the other hand, work can be detrimental costing farmers social relationships, psychological stress, leisure, and personal health and safety.

In this study I focused on the following research questions: How has farm work affected the farm family? What is their culture of work? How has their work affected their life styles? How has continued work affected their health and safety, leisure, and other aspects of their lives? Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore farmers' work ethic and behaviors, and the effects of their work ethic on health, safety, leisure, social relationships, and quality of life.

METHODOLOGY. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING

An ethnographic study was conducted over 3 months on 15 farm women and men in Southeastern Wisconsin. Participant observations and interviews conducted with farm women and men depict the meaning and culture of work and its relationship to leisure and health. It was predicted that farm families continue to work long hours on the farm and off the from creating unique and special consequences on their psychological wellness, leisure time, and social relationships. It was also hypothesized that work habits establish during childhood extend into adulthood and retirement. On the other hand, it was predicted that farmers will report positive and distinctive advantages for their work on farms. …

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