Do you live to work or work to live? This question of mindset and philosophy has been a source of intergenerational tension for a while now. Baby boomers see working hard to provide for their families and millennials work to support a great life outside their working hours. In the end both groups are working to make a living.

In my world, neither of these is correct; work takes on many forms in my life — a career where my living is earned, jobs completed around the farm that keep the place running and time spent on community activities. They are work in function but don’t merely represent earnings to provide for a family or the pride in a job well done. These things are my work and my life.

For weeks our house has been in fall harvest mode which means non-stop action. Someone is likely driving a combine or grain cart, fueling or shuttling vehicles, farming to prep the soil, running a drill and sometimes all of these are happening at once. Our house feels like a rest stop where meals are eaten, and the shorter days mean leaving and coming home in the dark. We exercise communication and teamwork as we put the needs of the farm over our own comfort. It’s chaotic, exciting and exhausting.

Life off the farm doesn’t stop for harvest. Recently we helped run our local Oktoberfest to raise money for community philanthropy. One of the best things about this event is the group of 16 people who serve on the planning committee to make it happen. This group of working professionals and business owners is made up of parents to small children (including three sets of twins), leaders in churches or serving on community and civic boards, and we even have some pursuing advanced degrees. Everyone on the committee is stepping away from busy lives; we are making sacrifices and working because we take ownership in making our community a great place to live.   

My “real job” is fairly exciting this time of year, too. Most of the cooperatives employees are focused on harvest and helping our members get wheat in the ground. My focus is on planting a different type of seeds. The start of the school year provides lots of opportunities for me to give tours of our facilities and classroom presentations about the value of cooperatives, working at the cooperative and making the decision to live rural by choice.

Farmers are often recognized for their work ethic which might be because to farmers work is more than just doing a job, it is our life. We aren’t paid by hours or jobs done; we spend months investing time, energy and resources not knowing how much or even if it will all pay off in the end.

This is the work-life philosophy that underlies my life. Much of what I do has little instant gratification or payoff. I have to have faith that my time, effort and skills will yield something great in the future.

They say that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I see it slightly differently, if you love what you do, you gladly work hard to make things happen. When you fill your life with work that you love or do it for people you love it becomes so much easier.

The question shouldn’t be living to work or working to live? It should be are you working to make a living or a life?