Fat Farm

USA Today reported recently on an outbreak of obesity in a place you normally wouldn’t expect it – America’s farms.

Bigger tractors, better combines and even robots to take over daily tasks such as milking cows have made their way into rural America. Farmers and ranchers also are spending more time in the office dealing with marketing and planning and glued to their televisions, computers and smart phones watching volatile commodity markets, leaving less time to be active.

Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, said he used to add on 10 pounds during the winter before working it off in the spring throwing 50-pound bags of seed into a planter. Now the seed comes in bulk, in big containers weighing as much as 2,500 pounds. The seed is loaded automatically.

“If you compare what we used to do 10 or 20 years ago compared to what it is now, we don’t work as hard physically because of the technology,” said VanderWal, 49, who makes it a priority to stay active on the farm and head out for an evening walk with his wife. “You need to be more diligent in making sure you’re staying fit and make it a point to do some exercise.”

Farmers do have a lot of ground to make up. Shepherds are way out in front.