Farming

Why & How To Be A Farmer

February 11, 2015
rachel_segal_first_time_farmers

I saw this article pop up on Facebook and couldn’t help but chime in with my own thoughts after taking the time to carefully read through the author’s words as well as each and every comment.

Some of the rebuttals and supporting sentiments were funny. Others were scary. Most seemed to be based on “Oh my friend does this…” or “I did that and this is what I felt…”

Full disclosure: I’m a full time working mum with goats, chickens and a garden. I aspire to farm. We have a plan to farm. We are actively, strategically building a foundation for farming…but we are not the full time farmers we hope to be in the not too far off future.

Some would say this makes us unqualified to have an opinion. Others might feel we’re ‘posing’. But, we made the careful decision when we finally started this blog (nearly three years after the first thought bubbles around farming started to form around our heads) that we wanted to document how we get there. Not just the view once we are “officially” farming.

Where do you draw that line? What is “official”?

So back to this article.

I was struck multiple times by how different our approach is. There are four fundamental differences in what we want to build.

  1. We will own the land. I cannot, would not, consider leasing farmland to build a business in agriculture. I would perhaps consider a land trust. I’m intrigued by alternative land linking models. But the idea of renting and potentially investing several seasons into land where I don’t have a long term commitment for stability? Equity? No.
  2. We will play it safe. We don’t have the time on our side or the years of experience to jump in head first. We will know that we can make this work before we will risk it all. Maybe that makes us “hobbyists”. Perhaps it completely undermines our right to call ourselves farmers. But it’s what we will do as parents who want to make sure our risks don’t undermine her future.
  3. We will be realistic. If I wanted to continue making six figures into my sixties, I would have kept my day job. I would like us to be able to maintain a reasonable income and a lifestyle that allows us to continue loving what we do even if it means a lot of hard work to do it. No, I don’t think the author’s present net income is reasonable. Yes, I do feel that not only will we have to further adjust our income expectations but we also need to carefully weigh the cost of things we won’t need (or want) to purchase. Food, gym memberships, high heels, professional blow-outs…just a few of the things that we don’t need to – and don’t want to – spend money on.
  4. We will be diverse. As I was reading through the article, I couldn’t help but notice we’re talking veggies. Veggies! Probably some fruit too, but mostly veggies. We will have more than this because from everything we’ve read, learned, talked about and planned for includes a diversified small farm where the various wheels are turning together to create a more efficient – both work-wise and cost wise – suite of end products. Whether that be a rutabaga or a round roast.

I’d like to leave off with where the author opened, talking about an article that featured young adults actively choosing to become first generation farmers.

What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.

I look to the incredible work that Ashley has done with Woolful. I’m intrigued by the newly discovered Ways We Work blog run by Amanda. Different topics, different approaches. But riveting. Honest. Transparent. Human.

So I ask you, my small (but growing!) audience of readers. If we had a forum, a podcast, a section on the blog for interviews, a venue for asking these questions – all of them – instead of just painting one view for editorial purposes…

Would you listen? Would you read it? Would you want to listen to or read it?

Should we make First Time Farmers more than our story and start actively seeking out the stories of others to find out more about how farmers are making it work, what they see the challenges as and offer a little bit more perspective on the multiple layers, grey areas and bounds of success and failure?

I ask and await with pre-emptive gratitude for your answers and perspectives.

 

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11 Comments

  • Reply Cait February 12, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Hi Rachel!

    I would listen and I would read it! I probably would prefer to read it, but I would listen if that’s what your heart told you to do. I love the work you and Woolful are doing, I also find it inspiring. Thanks for all you do!

  • Reply angelica February 12, 2015 at 7:37 am

    I would love to hear a podcast ( I get more work done that way) . My husband and I also would like to be farmers. We are working on our small homestead now but we plan to buy more property and have a small farm in the near future. Ive been having a hard time connecting with other farmers and trying to figure out were to go on this adventure. So to hear how you guys have been accomplishing it would be awesome!

  • Reply Ronda February 12, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Rachel,
    I think the best way for you to find the information you seek is through experienced farmers….and I would love to come along for the ride! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us here.

  • Reply Tara February 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Rachel! I would follow for sure. I love reading about adventures because we are on a similar adventure.

  • Reply Brittany February 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I would read too! I’m mostly an IG follower though so you’d need to post there to alert us when something new was posted. (Did someone say content syndication?!)

    • Reply rachel February 15, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Oh we’d definitely be letting folks know on IG – that’s our best vehicle for getting the word out and I think the most active farming/homesteading/wild community online these days!

  • Reply Derek Powazek March 29, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    We’re doing it, too, and I’d love to talk to others who are.

  • Reply Shannon March 30, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Lovely thoughts here. Glad I discovered you :) My husband and I are first generation farmers. Bought our small farm (one we could barely afford at the time) in 1993. Looking back I think we just made it work and we do feel very blessed, but it hasn’t been easy. Diversity is key and the knowledge that your farm will never stand still… always learning and doing. The to-do list never shortens. Farming is beautiful because it is impossible to control. It will challenge you. But it is worth it.
    I will follow your farming adventures. You are on the right track! xo

  • Reply Katrina June 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I just discovered your blog and feel we have a very similar journey ahead of us. I have a small farm that we’d like to make my full time, income making job.
    I will definitely be reading (and commenting). I look forward to reading about your journey!

  • Reply Fiona July 17, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Rachel this is wonderful! I am a huge fan of Woolful too and it’s so interesting to discover this homesteading movement happening in the States and Canada. I love in Scotland and it is my dream to do something like this. It’s a long way off yet but following your and others progress gives me hope, inspiration and optimism.

  • Reply Chrisi August 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Would definitely love to see this happen

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