Farming and Daylight Savings Time

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There are two things happening this week that are going to affect our local farmers that you may not realize are directly related to agriculture.  The loudest and most obvious is the election on Tuesday.  It is difficult to understand why our nation votes in the middle of the week when most of us are up tending to children and chores, getting everyone off to school and out to pasture, and then get started with our own work day.  But instead of blaming the heads on high in Washington you really have your predecessors blame.

Before cars, the United States was largely agrarian with a focus on morning and evening chores and Sundays dedicated to a day of rest and devotion.  Because of the extended travel times to get places, farmers often needed more than a day to arrive at centralized voting stations. So as not to not interfere with Sunday mass and the middle of the week market day, it was decided that voting would be conducted on Tuesday.  The fact that it is in November is also prudent as it is the time when most farmers would be finished with their harvest and putting up hay for the winter.  Speaking of winter, one must also consider the road conditions in our country prior to large scale paving.  Many roads were rendered impassible by winter snow and ice for half of the year.  Furthermore, congress set the date as to not interfere with the catholic holiday All Saints Day or the farm accounting that was normally completed on the first of the month.  For all of these agrarian reasons, Congress voted in 1845 to mark the second Tuesday in November as our day to vote for elected officials.

The other event that occurred was the implementation of daylight saving time.  There is a popular myth that this practice was supported by American farmers but is contrary to the reality of the move.  As many of you know farming is a twenty four hour a day job.  Utilizing the rhythm of the sun and the seasons is natural and the changing hours of daylight are an important trigger for both plants and animals.  The practice of daylight savings time does most farmers a disservice as it pushes our work further from the natural cycle of day and night.  The cows don’t understand that your farm hands must leave an hour early because of the change, so most farmers will gradually move their milking time five or ten minutes a day until the full hour is achieved.  Of course the utilization of milking robots has made this a moot point but these outfits, at least in these parts, are few and far between.

So who is guiding the continuance of this practice?  This falls mostly on the shoulders of retailers who understand that longer daylight hours means more time for dinning and shopping.  Even I must admit that there is something special about sitting out in the pasture bathed in the last rays of late summer daylight.  Length of day effects all animals on earth, including the bipedal ones, and as farmers we understand that working with the natural cycles is always more fruitful than trying to work against them.  Everyone have a safe day today and even in the most trying or intense times of my life I take solace in the fact that the farm and the legacy of my work will always be there in the morning.

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