2023 saw me living in Amble Northumberland for the first time having moved from my native Lincolnshire. In February I started to work part-time two or three days a week grading seed potatoes at a local farm. Now not being used to this type of manual work for a full day it was physically challenging to me, but being part-time made it easier. Working there made me realise some of the challenges of farm employment.
Now I have helped on farms before and had a go at different jobs and this one was relatively simple. Effectively I would be with a team of up to four people on a conveyor belt or rollers watching potatoes and picking out anything that should not be there. This involved being stood for about 8 hours a day with some breaks to the routine with both formal rests, lunch and cleaning and changing of machinery set up as the potatoes changed variety and requirements.
As I performed this simple task it reminded me of the film the Karate Kid where the young pugilist is taught to wax on and wax off the Karate masters car to improve his co-ordination and strength. In the later remake of the movie a young Jaden Smith achieves the same picking up a coat and hanging it on a peg. It struck me that the job I was doing picking stones and manky potatoes off the line could be a similar exercise for training a boxer as it required repeated hand-eye co-ordination, stamina, strength of mind and repeated strength. Indeed, one of my colleagues recorded over 50,000 hand movements in a day on his fit-bit – and that was just his left hand. As for myself, my physical fitness improved and I lost a couple of inches around my waist in the few weeks of doing the job.
What other farming tasks might improve physical performance for a budding martial-artist? Certainly cropping Brussel sprouts on a Lincolnshire field requires a sportsman’s grit and determination, especially when you are at the start of a field that appears to go on forever. Walking through the field with a sharp knife cutting the sticks of sprouts whilst everything below waist level is showered on with water held in the leaves of the plant. Plus the enlargement of your boots as size nine’s become size twelve as the silt mud clings to them trudging for miles.
That’s just arable. The physical demands of animal husbandry can no doubt be equally challenging. Certainly I have helped catch turkeys and geese with both requiring speed, determination and a degree of strength. Then there is the physical challenge of holding a sheep whilst shearing it or the brute force strength to help roll an ailing cow to standing position.
Even those operating machines, especially in processes that require you to be constantly on and off different machinery need stamina and fitness.
I have no doubt farm work of one form or another could be an ideal training ground for the next Rocky-style boxer. Perhaps Adonis Johnson’s next bout of training should be on the farm.