On Why We Farm
May 20, 2014 I am a farmer. Since I was a little girl in Wranglers and cowboy boots in the barn, in my grandparents orchards and gardens, and standing next to the canner learning to put up the bounty of the season – in some ways I have always been a farmer. Every morning as I pull on my barn clothes and work boots, I feel flutter in my stomach, a tightening in my chest. Every morning brings me a certain shade of anxiety. Some days that shade of anxiety is barely noticeable – some days it clouds my vision. But every morning I open the back door and take cautiously optimistic steps to the barn and fields. Running a small family farm is a dream. And sometimes a nightmare. For all the beauty that rolls through the bucolic hills and pastures, there is cruelty in nature. You long for a balance of rain and sunshine, of ewes to rams lambs, of inputs to sellable goods, but so often you find the scale swaying with uncertainty. Today, as I write this first post, fresh off the heels of a successful season of pork hog raising, I am nervous about the vegetable garden crops and resigning myself to the fact that despite practicing good livestock management and throwing the book of veterinary medicine at my new milk cow, she continues her gradual health decline. I don’t really want to walk outside. I don’t really want to see the new challenges that the evening brings. And yet, I do. I remind myself everyday that if farming were easy, that everybody would do it. There is a reason that our society has moved away from self sufficiency and towards factory farmed goods. Farming is incredibly hard, unpredictable and, too often, heart breaking. But I wouldn’t ever want to do anything else. You see, I get to feel things at such a fundamental level. I get to watch nature and all her mystery, I get to see effort and courage, I am allowed to feel a level of accomplishment that I never felt in my “professional” life before. I will NEVER get rich doing what we do. But our wealth isn’t always measured in dollars or fine things. I measure our wealth in other ways. I feel it when I hand a customer a basket of fresh organic produce and their eyes sparkle like a kid on Christmas morning because of that perfect heirloom tomato balanced on top. I feel it when my farmer man drives the tractor through the fields with the setting sun and billowing dust framing him like a portrait. I feel it when a canning jar pops at 2:00 in the morning after a flurry of preservation. I feel it when I watch my often surly teenage daughter not even hesitate before she sinks her arm into a ewe to turn a stuck lamb. I feel it when my kids proudly say to their friends “we’re farmers, it’s what we do”. I feel it when I watch my toddler feed her “babies” – not dollies, but lambs and calves and little peeping chicks. I feel it when I open the pantry or the freezer and know that we produced enough to feed our family for another year. I feel it when somebody asks what I “do” and I have the privilege of replying “I am a farmer”.