I’m asked quite often why I want to be a farmer, and it’s a difficult question for me because it’s so complex. I feel it in my bones, that’s why. But most people take that answer as rote. They want to know the reasons why I feel it in my bones. My Great Grandfather was a small farmer and lumberjack. We spent a good portion of our time on his farm growing up, and there are certain things that have been etched indeliably into my being. I will never forget the feel of warm just-laid chicken eggs, plucked like the exciting treasures they are from the nest box. I will never forget the sound of clucking chickens begging for corn or scolding you for disturbing their foraging. I’ll never forget the smell of purple Morning Glories on the barn yard fence, as I reached through it to pet the rusty-colored nose of a year-old calf. Or the first time I milked a Jersey cow, her tail lazily swatting back and forth, staring back calmly at the ball of energy trying to milk her. That old cow couldn’t have harmed a fly. I’ll never forget my Great Grandpa’s broad smile and wave as he drove the tractor up to the back pasture. Or running through the enormous vegetable patch, marveling at the tomatoes, pumpkins and overall bounty. Nor will I forget stringing snap beans for dinner or churning butter from our own milk in a gallon jar churner. I’ll never forget the feel of sisal twine in my sweaty hands as I swung still higher from the board swing in the chicken yard.
It’s not just memories that push me forward. I do admit to being a sentimentalist, but I’d like to think I’ve got common sense too. Farming is harder than idealistic memories would lead one to believe. But behind the idealistic memories is a strong foundation. Those memories represent hard ideals, morals and a dying way of life we need to fight to preserve for the good of ourselves and the world around us. The food we consume to sustain us should be one of our most important considerations as a society, and also as a species. We have to do it sustainably, one small farm, one small community at a time. If we cannot find a way to live in true harmony with this world, we will kill it. And what will we do next? I cringe at the thought.
So yes, eighteen hour days are in my bones. Backbreaking work- the planting, weeding, harvesting- are in my bones. Waking up in the middle of the night during lambing is my bones. Slaughtering my own chickens, being wide open to all the weather (including the sleet, snow, rain and oppressive heat), working hard to make an HONEST dollar, not killing myself or my world are all in my bones. That’s why I want to be a farmer.