What I learned my first year of farming…. Farming is NOT for the weak. Those weak in spirit, weak of mind, weak of heart, weak of determination, or weak in vision need not apply. It doesn’t matter if your weak in strength, that will change. What I learned my in my first year of farming, farming is hard work.
There is this preconceived romanticism built around farming. It goes something like this:
Let’s purchase some land, and become farmers. Grow our own food and have animals. We’ll get to enjoy sunrises on the porch while we overlook the farm and drink our coffee. Sitting on the porch in the evening and marvel at the glorious sunsets, while we relax with our glasses of iced tea, just living the dream. Just think of the eggs and the milk and all of the fresh vegetables we can grow. Imagine the kids and the family coming for picnics and dinners. It will be magnificent.
Sounds pretty accurate. I believe farming should be JUST like that. But folks, the reality – that isn’t the normal. Farming is hard. When you accept the job as farmer, you are accepting a world in which the work is never done, the pay sucks and everyone thinks your’re crazy. Don’t get me wrong, there are magnificent sunsets and astonishing sunrises to soak in over a cup of coffee.
Farmers have an unrivaled faith, while still being the biggest gamblers in the world.
Well, that’s a HUGE contradiction right. Let me explain…. In farming, the farmer has this almost untouchable faith – faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When a farmer puts the first seed in the ground, he (or she in this case) is above all, totally dependent on faith. You see, the farmer can’t make the seeds grow. The farmer can only care for the seed by providing an environment of warmth and safety. This is what also makes a farmer the biggest gambler. He (or she) is putting everything on the line in hopes that all of those tiny little seeds germinate and grow into mature – fruitful plants. One failed crop can ABSOLUTELY mean a farmers demise.
What I learned my first year of farming…
We’ve obviously covered the first part – farming is hard, and it is. There’s no getting around that. There’s weeds to pull, there’s critters to tend, there’s seeds to plant (and tend). You have to gather the eggs, harvest the crops, milk the goats (or cows), it seems like it never ends. Then there’s the poop. So much poop. It has to be shoveled and hauled and dumped and composted another endless, thankless job. Be prepared for sore muscles specifically the ones you didn’t know you had. For body parts to ache that have never ached before in your life. Expect to keep going long after your body has said to stop, that it needs a rest, and so on.
Then there’s dinner
Forget having dinner at a “normal” time (whatever that is). Dinner happens when you’ve no more to give the day, usually sometime around 9 or 10. It’s too dark to do much at that point anyway. A bowl of cereal is sufficient for dinner. Not surprisingly, you’ll eventually learn to like frozen burritos. I know we’ve learned to make some pretty decent tasting ones. Slap some salsa on it and you’re good to go. It’s food right and at this point, you’re really to tired to care.
Let’s talk about your fresh new manicure….that’s seriously a joke. Your hands will NEVER be the same. I don’t care what kind of lotion you have or how many pairs of gloves you wear, your hands in fact, will be toast. You will always have cracks, cuts, scrapes, broken fingernails as well as dirt that just does not seem to wash off. At least we claim it’s dirt. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. You now have farmer hands, this is an honor, carry them with pride.
You can’t make everyone happy.
I’ve learned regardless of how much of my time, energy and resources I put into growing, tending, and harvesting, it’s not always zucchini or tomato season (in April). Which means someone isn’t going to be happy. There’s also a period when all you have available is zucchini and tomatoes and guess what, people still aren’t satisfied. I’ve learned to grow what we’re going to eat. Don’t grow stuff you aren’t willing to eat (there’s always extras). Otherwise, the critters have a feast!
Above all, I’ve learned that farming is my heart, it’s my whole heart. It truly is my dream. Farming is very humbling, you aren’t in control of any of it, you just get to be a part of it. I GET to be a part of something bigger. I would venture to say that farming is a definite ego buster, as Brook LeVan would say; “Be careful what you know, it might get in your way”. So, I’m ok with being perfectly unqualified to do what we do.
I’ve certainly learned to pray – A LOT. I can’t do this in my own. To lean not unto my own understanding, but to trust that my God has a plan. Of course, I’ve also learned not to “yell at Jesus in the back of the boat”. That may not make sense to you. It means the world to me. I have had my ass handed to me too many times to continue to think I’m ready when clearly I’m not.
At the end of the day, farming isn’t an occupation, or a job. It’s the heart and soul of people, people just like me and you.
The next time you have dirt under your nails, or a frozen burrito for dinner at 10:00, have an ibuprofen cocktail before bed, or plant zucchini in January, be thankful that you are part of great legacy of people. A great legacy of people that feed the world. And yes, in all of this, the work, the struggle, the weeds and the poop, there is still a sense of romanticism. It’s when you look out and see what your hands have done. It’s where you come from and where your going.