Farms and ranches grow and raise the products of healthy living—fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats and dairy—but the statistics show that farm living is a healthy thing as well. Here’s a look at the ways and means behind the healthfulness of a farm lifestyle.

  • A fresh, rural environment. When comparing the levels of pollution of rural and urban living, the country wins in just about every example. Barring pollution from random sources—coal mines that spewed pollution years ago, poor ag waste management practices or illegal dumping—the countryside offers cleaner air, water and soil. According to pollution information from the EPA, cities simply have more people than rural areas, meaning that there’s just more pollution in urban areas than in the countryside. Cities also have large industrial sectors that contribute to pollution in cities, despite being much better regulated than in years past.
  • Daily exercise. Last year saw the release of a study that linked prolonged sitting to serious health risks like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even death. Basically, the sedentary lifestyle of someone who sits behind a desk all day and then comes home to sit on a couch all evening isn’t terribly healthy. Farming requires a lot of physical activity that helps you to get in the daily exercise and movement that will contribute to long-term health.
  • Farm-fresh food. While being a farmer doesn’t guarantee that you eat farm-fresh produce free of processing, additives and preservatives on a daily basis, it does increase the likelihood that you would (and could) make healthier eating choices.
  • Contact with animals. Numerous studies have shown that both dogs and cats help to lower their owner’s blood pressure. On the farm, big farm animals are thought to strengthen the immune system and decrease a child’s chance of developing asthma and severe allergies; that’s according to one study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation that is attempting to prove such a link exists.  Statistics suggest that children born to farm families—especially those with cattle or pigs—have healthier immune systems and are less prone to develop allergic diseases. The study is set to culminate in 2017.

Don’t live on a farm? You can replicate many of the activities of farmers that reap big health benefits, such as through getting daily exercise, eating a healthy diet and advocating for a clean environment where you live. You could also take your kids to visit a farm or a petting zoo, but remember for you and your kids to wash your hands promptly!