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Working in the winter rain or snow isn’t fun by any means, but it’s a necessary part of your job. Wearing the right winter gear makes ALL the difference.

If you can swing it, it’s well worth it to spend the money on high-quality winter gear that’ll last you for multiple seasons. It’s worth the investment – it’s better to have just one or two coats that serve you well for multiple seasons than several coats that aren’t totally reliable.

No matter what your budget, though, you can find a winter coat that works for you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your search.

Size up.

Surviving the cold is all about layers, which means you need to make sure your coat will still fit over all of that bulk. Buying one size larger than you normally would should do the trick, but if you can, try on the coat with some layers underneath to see how it fits.

Look for waterproofing.

If you expect to encounter snow and rain this winter, make sure that you own at least one layer that’s completely waterproof. Some examples of high-quality waterproof materials include GORE-TEX or a DWR coating.

Pick your insulation.

You have two insulation options for warmth: down filling or synthetic insulation. If you live in a snowy or rainy area, consider opting for synthetic insulation rather than down, because down filling doesn’t insulate as well when it’s damp. On the other hand, down filling is more lightweight and compact than synthetic.

…But look for a slim fit.

Winter gear is bulky enough as it is. You need your coat to be well-insulated, which means it will be pretty thick, but look for something that’s not unreasonably bulky or heavy. Waddling around like a marshmallow isn’t exactly practical.

Tear-resistant material.

Some shiny fabrics are very easily torn, so if you work with fencing or other sharp pointy objects on the farm, that can definitely get frustrating. Instead, look for a thick and tear-resistant material that will hold up.

Lots of pockets.

Can you ever really have enough pockets? I don’t think so! Look for a coat with big pockets and plenty of ’em. The pockets should be secure enough to hold items without letting them fall out.

Opt for a hood.

Hoods help protect you from the rain and snow, and they also keep your head warm. There’s really no downside to having the option there, even if you tend to wear a hat and scarf. Look for a coat with an adjustable hood – a drawstring or snaps.

Buy secondhand.

High-quality work coats are almost always a bit pricey, but you can save a lot of money by buying secondhand. Look for a coat that’s still in good shape – a season or two old is your best bet, and believe it or not, people do get rid of their winter coats after a couple years if they’re no longer “in fashion.” Luckily for you, fashion is the least of your worries when it comes to working in the cold! You might even end up with a fancier, cuter coat than you expected this way.

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Skin Sun Safety on the Farm

Spending long hours outside in the hot sun can certainly have its benefits (think Vitamin D and circadian rhythm), but as farmers who spend nearly all of their working hours in the midday sun, farmers simply do not have the time for sunburn. It’s an absolute necessity to take precautions to protect our skin if we hope to return to the fields day after day, and thankfully, there are many ways that can help us care for our skin while getting all that work done.

Sun Protective Clothing

Not all clothes are created equal! While simply covering your skin with clothing seems like the logical way to keep the sun from damaging your skin, many traditional clothing materials, like cotton and even hemp, are not able to block UV rays over an extended period of time. However, sun protective clothing, often made from polyester and nylon, is designed to block both UVA and UVB rays based on its fiber type, construction, color and special treatments. Sun protective clothing will have a UPF rating, ultraviolet protection factor, similar to the familiar SPF. When shopping for sun protective clothing, you’ll find clothing items rated from UPF 15 through UPF 50–the higher the UPF, the better protection you’ll get. Most outdoors and athletic companies offer a wide-range of shirts and pants made with these materials. Incorporate a few UPF-rated items into your wardrobe as a way to protect your skin when you’re outside all day long.

Sun Hats

A fun addition to your summer outerwear collection is a sun hat with a wide, 360 degree brim to keep those easy-to-burn areas from over-ripening in the sun. So often we forget about our scalp, ears, neck, nose, and even our eyes but these areas are actually the first to get skin cancer. With just a single accessory, the sun hat can keep your skin safe. Many sun hats even come in UPF materials for better protection. Who said farming isn’t fashionable?

Sunscreen

Yes, staying out of the sun is simply not an option for us, so sunscreen should always be kept in stock and on hand. However, it’s important to read the labels on the sunscreen you purchase and try to buy a brand that contains natural ingredients versus synthetic chemicals. Most sunscreens on the market today contain dangerous chemicals that disrupt the body’s endocrine system and can lead to cancer themselves. The point of using sunscreen is to prevent skin damage and skin cancer not cause it, so look for sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active SPF ingredients.

Whether you chose to use sunscreen or wear UPF protective clothing, taking care of yourself should be a priority when working outdoors day after day. The better we care for ourselves, the better we are able to care for others – it’s what all good farmers do.


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