It occurs to me that I’ve written about how hard farming is over and again. Lots of physical work, great uncertainties involved, not really a moneymaker. (Q: How do you make a million dollars in farming? A: Start with two million.) I haven’t written much about the reasons one might want to farm. At least, these are the reasons I would want to. I’ve been taking it for granted that you already know me, know the things I enjoy and to which I’m drawn, and know that I’ve done a bit of urban farming myself. But that may not always be the case for some of my new friends and readers. So here goes. Suzie’s top ten reasons she’d love to or would have loved to have had a farm. Test yourself by seeing how many of these you already knew! Or could have predicted.
Things I Like About Farming:
- Working outdoors. I like to be outdoors. A lot. I’d prefer be out there most of the time and indoors a little of the time. Except on snowy winter days. Then I like to spend a little time outside doing what needs to be done and the rest of the time throwing another log on the wood stove and spinning wool.
- Working cooperatively with others. It takes a team to run a farm – people with different skills, likes and dislikes that ultimately balance each other. There’s also the intermittent everyone-lend-a-hand time when you call on family and friends. And the neighborliness of lending a hand when you are needed. Sure, the same happens off the farm. But with farming, when you lend a hand it’s usually for something critical, like picking all the apples so you can get them made into cider or they’re going to rot under the trees.
- Knowing the work you do every day serves a purpose. “I make food for people to eat.” Hard to feel morally ambivalent about that.
- Constant creative problem solving. This is one of my favorite things to do — figure stuff out. Then once you’ve figured it out and get an understanding of it, figure out how to do it better. Or in a way that gets a different outcome. Or seven different outcomes. Before taking a first hand look at all this farming stuff, I thought that farmers did the same thing, year after year. I thought farming was about shepherding plants and animals through the same yearly processes of growing, harvesting, restoring and then growing again. And it is. But it’s also like a riddle that needs to be solved anew each year. Or rather, a new riddle that needs solving each year. And each year’s prior experience helps you solve this year’s riddle. But it’s always going to be new and just a little different than the past. There is constant observation, evaluation, and flexibility needed. And creativity. Don’t forget that one or you won’t be able to come up with the new ideas and “How about if we try…”s that are essential to moving forward.
- Less reliance on others to provide you with essentials. Some people enjoy this concept. Others could care less. But I find the more I can do for myself, the less I have to stress over whether I’ll have the money or access to things I need. I like having chickens because there’s always food around. Haven’t gone to the grocery? No problem. Crack a couple eggs. You may not have ingredients for a three course meal, but you can always feed yourself by scrambling up some eggs. A few herbs in the garden help too. And some vegetables. And some canned goods (that you canned) and some frozen things. Everywhere I went during this trip, we ate meat entirely or mostly produced right on the farm. Some was even known by name.
- Most of the time what you are looking at is beautiful. This is a big one for me. Despite my early adulthood focus on architecture, I still vastly prefer to see the landscape around me rather than the city. Buildings have their charms. But I prefer them to be just one element in the environment rather than everything I see in every direction.I’ll admit to enjoying my time in dense urban environments as well. I loved Glasgow. I love San Francisco! I even like Tucson and Boston and small urban environments like Santa Fe and Bisbee. I really do. But if given the choice, they are not where I would spend the majority of my time. I like to be in a place where nature’s presence feels much larger than that of humans. I do enjoy a good, urban visit. I like to see a big sky. I like how things grow on their own, not necessarily cultivated by our hands. I like concrete in small, useful proportion to everything else.
- Working with animals. I like animals. Sometimes I like them more than people. Wouldn’t it be great if the coworker in the cubicle next to you was a border collie? You can bet that dog would get the job done and get it done RIGHT! You could get all the credit, too. Dogs aren’t much into self promotion.
- Spending the day using your body. I’ve always thought it was strange to go to a gym to work the parts of your body that would get worked if we had less comfortable lives. If we walked instead of drove everywhere. If we had to carry groceries during that walk. If we had to chop wood to heat our homes. Instead, we’ve created all kinds of inventions that do things for us. I like those inventions — don’t get me wrong. But then we have to invent ways to exercise our bodies in order to keep healthy. Doesn’t anyone else think this is strange? It’s easy to see that by keeping a farm, you will get plenty of strength and resistance training as well as aerobic exercise. No gym needed.
- Relegating the computer to the status of just another tool. At present, and for much of my past, all my work has been done on the computer. It holds the institutional memory and working parts of most organizations — and therefore it’s been the center of my work life for a long time. I think I’d rather not just stare at a screen all day. I’d rather be involved in making something irl (that’s computer shorthand for “in real life”, meaning NOT virtual, not digital, but taking up space in the actual environment as its own entity).Then I don’t mind using the computer as the means for marketing, selling, transporting, communicating about, and getting supplies for the making of that real thing. Computer, one of many tools. Thing produced irl, the actual work.
- Feeling happy and satisfied with how you spend your time. ‘Nuff said.
So now that I’ve dealt with this topic (and have had to come in and rewrite the last part, losing brilliant witticisms and insights, I’m sure…), I can get back to that post about shearing day.
By the way, happy 4th of July! Know what everyone is doing over her in the UK to celebrate?