I recently watched a program that explored the geography of happiness. Within minutes of the first episode, I placed a concept that had been floating around in my head for some time. A concept that farmers and ranchers know well – that is, the connection between living hard lives and being happy. As farmers and ranchers, we know hardships, but we rarely see them for what they are until they are generations behind us. To explore this concept, allow me to surface some specific hardships within our lifestyle and how they provoke happiness in an unlikely place.


Exposure to Natural Elements:

Farmers and ranchers do not live in a climate-controlled world. Neither do the animals we care for. From sunburn and frostbite to late-onset lung disease from years of breathing dust particles. This closeness to the weather breeds respect for these natural elements. I think most people would say they admire nature; but a deep respect, that comes from a different place.

Only after experiencing floods and droughts do you really appreciate a gentle rain just after planting. Something about this exposure to the elements flips the narrative on its head. 

Untimely storms are not a curse, rather, a well-tempered season is considered a blessing that carries happiness with it.



Having an environment that is always changing – it’s an ideology you take into life. For the short seven years I’ve been married to a farmer, I have learned that the only realistic expectation to hold is that nothing will go as planned. Which, to be clear, is very different than expecting things to go wrong. It’s not to expect the worst, it is to expect (and welcome) challenges. After a short learning curve, I can now report that learning the skill of adaptability generates happiness and contentment. There is a unique word that seems to fit this well – anti-fragile. This is a system that thrives when exposed to volatility and disorder.


Physical Conditions:

Put plainly- if you’ve ever smashed your thumb with a hammer, you really appreciate a day free of injury. Farmers and ranchers put a lot of hard miles on their bodies. What some may consider labor-intensive or inconvenient becomes routine for families in agriculture. This physical strain often results in perspective and gratitude for regained health and strength to accomplish tasks at hand.

The Biophilia hypothesis claims that on a genetic level, humans are happiest when they feel connected to other living things. It is no surprise to me that (by this definition) happiness is associated with a connection to living things and not by living a life of ease. Recently, in a moment of defeat, I found myself complaining to my farmer husband about our hardship. In true farmer fashion, he responded, “aren’t we lucky”. I have to agree – we are.