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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.