A few days ago, The Huffington Post featured a photo essay piece, “Amazing Photos That Will Convince You to Abandon Your Desk and Take Up Farming.” And it’s true, the photos are breathtaking, but if anyone quit their job over them…well, they need their head examined.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think farming is awesome, and I love the increasing interest in local, sustainable eating, the growing popularity of farmer’s markets and CSAs and the resurgence of the small farmer.
And farming, especially on these small, sustainable farms, can seem kinda glamourous. The overwhelming adorableness of new piglets, the joy of collecting eggs still warm in the nest, the excitement of harvesting the first tomatoes/broccoli/kale, and the satisfaction of preparing a meal from the fruits of your labors. I freely admit that I am guilty of Instagramming a filtered look at farming, which is exactly what each of the farmers featured in the piece are doing. We (for better or worse) leave a lot of details out of our IG feeds. We don’t always share the frustration of entire crops lost to weather, or worms, or your very own sheep. We can’t capture the heartbreak of losing an animal – finding a dead chicken or seeing a sow roll over on her newborn piglets. Or how tiring it is to wake before the sun, and work outside all day, come rain or shine. The ever-present exhaustion and soreness as you’re locked in a 24/7 love-hate relationship with Mother Nature. And the poop. So much poop, everywhere, all the time.
Taking up farming isn’t like taking up knitting-you can’t just leave it in the corner for some night when you’re bored. Unfortunately, some people do try to become mini-farmers on a whim, as evidenced by the growing number of abandoned backyard chickens!
So as incredible as our farming lives may look on Instagram, it’s quite a commitment, and not one to be taken lightly. To be a farmer, it truly needs to be your passion. You have to not mind being deathly hot or bonechillingly cold, dirty all the time, and broke.
I think farming author Wendell Barry sums it up best: “Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.”