New Farm 101: Living the Dream

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.”

-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

One attitude society seems to have about farmers is that we’re “living the dream.” Something about bucolic pictures, working outside, getting our hands dirty; whatever the metaphor, it seems to be a life that both rural and urban cultures idealize. I can’t blame them: there seems to be a complete dearth of negative farm pictures. I joined Instagram as free marketing for my business…for the life of me I can’t find anything sad or ugly posted about a small farm. Just shot after shot of beautiful cherry tomatoes. My bank teller told me today that she wishes her job was “watering plants.” Most people used to understand the effort it takes to grow food to eat–not only the technical skills but also the lifestyle that farming demands. With increased industrialization, its easy to forget carrots come from the ground. Even easier to forget the enormous scale required to grow carrots to sell at $2/lb.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/staticantics/6753914023
googlesearch “huge carrot field”

Small scale farmers I’ve met are full of terrible stories about nature ruining their plans, farmer’s markets ruining their plans, employees ruining their plans, plants ruining their plans, etc. Not only is this field (pun intended) full of disaster, society seems fairly determined to turn the farming experience into a cutesy farmer’s market booth. It’s very hard to explain my work. There’s a real temptation to rant desperately at anyone who asks me how the farm is going; I apologize if I’ve been treating this website as a way to vent.

Back to the dream! I am living the dream, absolutely in every way. My dream is what Barbara Kingsolver wrote about elementary kindness. Enough to eat. Enough to go around. For me and the community I live in. I don’t have a lot of disposable cash, but I’m paying rent and so is my employee. We have a lot of salad greens wilting in the fridge. I can’t explain the feeling of waking up and choosing when and how to go to work. I’ve been very busy all summer, but I haven’t yet felt like I’ve gone to work. Working hard, but never for anyone for anything I don’t agree with. Living so deep inside the dream that I’m “running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.”

I am so privileged to have the opportunity to start this farm. Enough complaining, on with the work.

 

4 Replies to “New Farm 101: Living the Dream”

  1. Holy cow!
    What a wonderful piece of writing about a wonderful dream!
    Leigh, we are related by marriage…as I am the husband of Nancy Stearns Bercaw.
    This year we planted our first garden in our new home in Ferrisburgh Vermont. Just yesterday I had to be told how to harvest the lettuce that looks great and tomorrow will be better.
    I have always wanted to live my life getting from meal to meal like I feel it was in the beginning…not there yet but hope to be someday.

    Like

    1. Thank you Allan! We’ve never met but I always enjoy my time with Nancy. It would be fun someday to meet the whole family! Thank you very much for reading. Feels nice to be witnessed. Gardens are such mischievous little buggers…they never stop pranking me. One of the best things in my life is eating food I grew. Enjoy your lettuce!

      Like

  2. Bless you Leigh, yours is a noble and gruelling path. Your choice is inspiring, keep us posted–keep us aware of the value and beauty of good food.

    Like

    1. Thank you for the well wishes Elizabeth! It is grueling…sometimes it feels noble, sometimes it just feels foolish. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see each other next time I come home! Say hi to your girls for me.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s