The current (and hopefully long lasting) trend towards farming is part of the movement towards contentment searching in our society. Despite our material wealth, or perhaps because of it, Americans are a very discontent society. We are searching for a sense of purpose and happiness. Many of us have looked at the last few generation’s pursuit of material wealth and seen that it didn’t bring happiness. We have instead given up on wealth as a goal and have begun to look at the quality of our life and simplification as a way to bring this contentment. A very efficient way of giving up wealth is farming haha!
Okay so there are rich farmers, but usually farming, especially subsistence or homestead farming, involves giving up materialism and the pursuit of wealth. It is one of the things that makes farming so attractive to those of us that seek contentment. Epicurus said of contentment “If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”
Farming puts us into an environment that makes us prioritize our time and money on something other than ourselves. It changes our thinking processes and forces us to be happy with less. Farming teaches us contentment. It is possible to be unhappy with farming, primarily if we are unable to give up the “things” of life and refuse to learn to be content. However, if you are able to develop contentment and learn to be happy with less, you will be so much happier in all situations of your life.
One of the keys to contentment in farming is to prevent yourself from becoming isolated. Most farming happens in farming communities where you have more support, but Southern California is a place that is easy to become isolated in. Even if you’re a “backyard” farmer and have friends outside your farm, you may not have support that understands the craziness of milking a goat when you get home from work, or turning down a trip to Vegas when you can’t find a farm sitter.
Epicurus said of contentment that “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.” Find people who support you in your farming and who enjoy chickens or pigs or cleaning animals pens as much as you do. If you want to farm, but have a greater need for socializing, pick what you raise to match your needs. For example, don’t raise dairy animals if you don’t want to have to be at your farm every morning and evening.
Contentment also comes from stopping social comparisons. You do not have to be a 2,000 acre farmer to be a farmer. I hate the term backyard farmer. If you own one chicken, you are a farmer and if you can keep that suicidal animal alive (if you own chickens you know they are constantly trying to die), you are a successful farmer. Be proud of what you have accomplished no matter the size of your farm. Don’t compare yourself to people who have been farming longer than you or who have more resources than you do. As a matter of fact, I find that the larger my farm gets, the more unhappy I become. I have recently downsized significantly because of this. I also have found that certain areas of farming make me happier than others. I am not a vegetable grower, for instance. I can’t raise lettuce to save my life.
Contentment isn’t a thing. It is a philosophy. Being in a certain situation, owning, not owning, having a certain income—none of these create contentment. You must have a mindset that you are going to be happy with what you have. It is based on understanding that we enter and leave the world with nothing and that discontentedness in life comes from being seduced into believing the lie that a your life is defined by owning things.
As the author Jerome K. Jerome said: “How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber…
It is lumber, man—all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness—no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples…
Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog…
You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work. Time to drink in life’s sunshine—time to listen to the Æolian music that the wind of God draws from the human heart-strings around us.”
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