I've sat down to write this post on our life farming so many times. But every time, I have put it off, feeling like I didn't get it right. Maybe this time I finally will.
Let me first explain what we do. My husband and I are partners with my in-laws in a micro intensive organic vegetable and flower growing business. We work the land behind my in-laws house (where we also live for now) and currently have 3/4 of an acre devoted to the farm with only 1/2 of an acre in actual production. We sell at local farmers markets and are exploring other ways to diversify our revenue. We’re only in our third year of doing it, so like with most new businesses, we see the potential, but aren’t really getting the full payback yet. Everything we makes goes right back into the business (after paying basic living expenses).
I tried thinking through the reasons I kept putting off this post. I think part of the reason is that we are a new business -- just in our third year. Part of me resists writing about something when it isn't necessarily a sure thing. I didn't want to claim to be an expert or have it all figured out, because we don't. I doubt we ever will 100%.
Another reason, I hate the "perfect life" tone that can easily come out. Farming can so easily get idealized. There are aspects that are really, truly good, but it is in no way the perfect or best life or the life for everyone.
I think why it is so hard to put into writing is because farming is a lifestyle shift. It touches upon and follows from so many things. Putting a finger on where to start or what's the most important or why we do it is complicated. There isn't a quick answer.
But I find that a good starting point. Farming is a lifestyle, and one that makes me and my family very happy, even though hard days come (like anything). There are so many ways farming makes for a good life. One that often comes to mind is when I look out the window and see my husband working outside. It is a flood of joy. In part because he worked at office jobs before and was so miserable. Not that office jobs are bad, just they weren't for him. He would be out of the house for 8+ hours, come home down, and then not want to talk about his work. Ever. Now, even though he labors tremendously, is often physically exhausted, seems to have less of a break and vacation time, is more tied down, and faces stresses literally beyond his control, he is happier. A paradox, perhaps, but true.
I love that farming encourages all of us to go and be outside and to gain knowledge of nature. There is such joy in seeing the first seeds germinate, noticing baby plants becoming stronger, and reaping the benefits of your watchfulness and labor. It grows with every year. There is a tenderness for all our plants, a responsibility. Merely the intellectual stimulation of farming is what struck me first. It's fascinating to pinpoint what went wrong, what helped the plant, how to improve next year, the taste differences from time of year or what not. Farming is a constant puzzle that is energizing and creative.
I love how my children go outside and can help on the farm. They see their father's work and can contribute. They want to help; they ask to help. They are closely bound within the entire home dynamic. They too start to recognize plants. They tend for them as well, and they take pleasure in eating them. Yes, my kids often beg for veggies!
I love that Philip can come in for meals. He is not distant from the home routine. I can go down and talk to him as we transplant seedlings. We both grow food for our family and relatives and friends and customers. We see the fruits of our labor, how good they are, and how others enjoy them too.
Having farmed for three years now, I also marvel at the bounty, beauty, and tenacity of the earth. While crop failures happen, more often than not you see how strong the drive to live and flourish is.
I'll say right now -- it's Spring. Winter truly awakens a desire for new life. The joy at seeing plants return to life, at feeling the earth soften is immense. Tasting fresh vegetables after a winter of canned and frozen ones is so good! You hardly want to cook them. Raw is more than good enough.
Summer will come, and with it, the crazy, fast-paced, barely catch your breath boom of harvesting and plenty. Those days, you find yourself squashing bugs, having dirt literally ingrained into your skin, sporting horrendous farmers tans, sweaty, stinky, and often encountering the stench of rotting fruit. Those days, life doesn't seem so peachy. But you muscle through. And you are rewarded, even if it takes getting through long week stretches of hard, incessant toiling.
And luckily, we have one another to fall back upon and support through the trying times. It's a steadily growing solidarity, strengthening year by year.