Like many farmers, my father complained about daylight saving time (DST). He arose every morning at 5:00 a.m., regardless of the season and whether we were on DST or not. Getting up at 5:00 a.m., which is 4:00 a.m. standard time, to start the day and quitting farm work around 7:30 p.m. during the summer didn’t suit him.
During the growing season Dad’s first daily task was bunk-feeding 3-4 pounds of ground earn corn to each of 150 or so feeder cattle that also grazed a legume-rich and bloat-prone pasture. Checking the cattle before they grazed and feeding them ground corn every morning and evening helped to prevent bloat problems from their consumption of alfalfa and clover.
When Dad wasn’t home, my brothers or I fed the cattle. It was a pleasant task for me, even if was still dark in the mornings when I drove a tractor and grain wagon from our farmstead to the pasture a half mile or more from home.
Sometimes I surprised jack rabbits, pheasants, meadow larks, and an occasional badger. Hearing the tractor, the cattle gladly strode toward their feed bunks for breakfast. They eagerly guzzled ground corn while I counted and checked them and their water supply, using a flashlight if necessary.
Starting at age 8, and if I didn’t have to feed the pastured cattle earlier, I arose by 6:00 a.m. anyhow, whether we were on DST or not. My brothers and I milked dairy cows and fed our 4H project beeves before school or daily farm work began when there was no school. I resumed this satisfying routine when I began farming after resigning my position as a professor at the University of Virginia in 1979.
Even if not on DST I arose by 5:00 a.m. when a professor, but now to carefully tend my valued purebred Simmental cattle at several different locations and to artificially inseminate cows that were in heat. Usually I was back in our house by 6:30 a.m. or earlier. I showered, shaved, and said goodbye to Marilyn and the kids, as I left for my psychology work around 7:00 each workday morning.
A hired hand, or sometimes Jon (son) took care of the evening chores except on my days off. We conferred daily by phone while I was on the road.
Like my dad, I learned to gauge the time of day by the sun’s position, something many people are less able to do today. I don’t wear a watch because I don’t want a clock controlling my daily schedule.
DST doesn’t bother me like it did my father, perhaps because I grew up with it and he didn’t. DST made Dad’s day longer, and “never better,” he said, when he attended meetings of boards and other events that limited his nighttime sleep.
Research investigations of DST confirm that “springing ahead” often reduces the amount of sleep people get until they gradually adjust, somewhat similar to the effects of jet lag when we travel by airplane from origination points east of us—like Europe–to North American destinations. Insufficient sleep has been implicated in slightly heightened rates of cardiovascular events and viral infections following the onset of DST.
Insufficient sleep due to DST has also been linked to a higher rate of automotive crashes that diminishes as adjustment occurs, according to several scientific studies, including a comprehensive review of this issue by Austin Smith in a 2016 article in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.
DST was tried first in England in the early 1900s as a cost-saving measure. However, Germany was the first country to fully implement DST in 1916. When the U.S. enacted DST in the 1960s, it was not designed to help farmers, but to benefit the general populace who wanted sunlit time to recreate or to carry out other work requirements after their day jobs.
DST was initiated in the U.S. in 1918-19 for seven months toward the end of WWI, but it was so unpopular that it was repealed by Congress, which also overrode President Wilson’s veto of a passed congressional bill to establish the time change. Later, for the last three years of WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST but allowed states to choose to implement it, similar to the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that establishes DST today.
Data subsequently have accrued about utility use and recreational activities during DST. A preponderance of reports say DST saves a small amount of electricity (about 1 percent) and enables more interaction among parents and their children and among adults. DST is probably here to stay, whether we like it or not.
Get ready for “falling back” when we resume standard time on Sunday morning, November 4th this year. DST affects farmers and farming very little these days because of artificial lighting, but some farmers still register complaints, and they may have good reasons to complain.
Daylight saving time was initiated in the U.S. in 1918-19 for seven months toward the end of WWI, but it was so unpopular that it was repealed by Congress, which also overrode President Wilson’s veto of a passed congressional bill to establish the time change.
Poster titled “VICTORY! CONGRESS PASSES DAYLIGHT SAVING BILL” showing Uncle Sam turning a clock to daylight saving time as a clock-headed figure throws his hat in the air.
Photo by United Cigar Stores Company (sponsor); artist unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.