December 12, 2011

"Something as Important and Real as Soil and Food"

I have lots of thoughts stirring about after reading this article from NPR (including: this girl might be my doppleganger, and where can I find her jacket?) There also may have been some serious thoughts. I wish I was near the point that many of these people are, but I can barely manage the three 6x4 plots in the backyard. Yet, it is encouraging to know that there are young people doing what I want to do.

One of the bits I found most interesting was kind of tucked away at the end. I think it's even more interesting than hearing about more young people wanting to live, what for many, is a quite idealistic existence. It's work. It's more work than I (and a lot of other young people wanting to farm) can imagine, with lots of opportunity for failure (see: my sad garden.)

Farming — the work, and the independence, and the connection to something as important and real as soil and food — was the one thing that he wanted to throw himself into. And he's been doing it ever since. But it wasn't always a big happy folk dance. 
"I can remember feeling kind of desperate, and having many failures, a lot of failures, in the first couple of years of growing crops and not really knowing what I was doing," he says. 
But there's one thing he had, and it's a big reason why he's still farming. He loved the business side of it: finding customers and making a living on his own. 
That sense of farming as a business is probably the biggest thing the young farmers have to learn, he says. It's what he preaches to the young apprentices who come to his farm to work. (He's had more than 200 such apprentices over the years.) 
Ideals are great, he tells them. "But if you're going to stick with it, and expect to make a living at it, you've got to be realistic about the business aspects: Money, and managing money, and borrowing money, and all the things that a business person has to do. And you have to accept that, and learn to like that – somewhat, at least – and be willing to be good at that." 
(Read the rest over at NPR)


keithly said...

After 18 years of farming, I retired and went to college. :) 90% of farm work is fixing machinery and running a business, which is why I have a different occupation. Something more part-time and hobby farm might be the best option for most people. Indeed, a lot of farmers will need a part-time job anyway.

Liz said...

That's why I liked that the person they talked to actually talked about how much work it was, and learning an actual business. Ideals are easy. But the work behind them...isn't always.