I have been struggling the past few years to have a farm and I and my family recently came to the conclusion that we don’t want a farm. We want a homestead.
What’s wrong with farming?
A farm is centered around production. You are trying to build an agricultural empire (of whatever size) where you are selling. Push push push. You have a product and it needs to go out, whether that product is beef, cheese, jelly or asparagus. Because it’s a business, you focus on what is the most profitable and you slash what isn’t. You try to get your numbers up, try to increase your stock, try to increase quality all so that you can make more (or in the case of farming, some) profit.
Farming to make money is hard
Now this may sound exciting to some people and there’s nothing wrong with some good old fashioned capitalism. I just don’t like it. At least not when it comes to farming (I’m perfectly ok with capitalism through other methods lol). Farming is a hard business to be in which is why it’s a dying art. A century ago, over 80% of the population were farmers and today it’s less than 1%. Kind of scary.
Farming is physically and mentally tough and I pretty much run the farm myself, with the part time help of the rest of the family. If I had a husband (any takers?) and five or so strapping sons, farming would be a different story. However when you’re a lone girl commercial farming can get a big overwhelming. I admit I’m a bit burned out. I’m even writing this blog post with a nice hot cup of coffee and trying to ignore the yells of my hungry animals at the moment. Just a few more minutes guys! Gimme a break!
What is homesteading? My plan
So my plan is to be a homesteader and not a farmer. For most people they probably don’t really see the difference, but it’s there! Trust me, as our president likes to say. A farmer is trying at some level to make money off their farming efforts. Even if it’s a tiny farm. A homesteader is trying to survive and make a pleasant life for their family. They may sell a few things here and there, but it’s subsistence level farming. Farming to live.
It’s really a difference in attitude…
I want to focus on living a pleasant life. I want to raise food for me and my family and never have to buy from the store (well that’s the goal at least). And not only do I want to be self sufficient, but I want food that lived a happy and healthy life without tons of chemicals and misery. I want to live off the grid and leave a small footprint on the planet. I want a passel full of kids running around barefoot with dirty faces with not a lot of possessions, but a lot of experiences.
When I look at farmers, successful farmers (meaning they are generally making a living with commercial farming), I often see stressed, overweight individuals. They aren’t eating healthy, they aren’t eating their own food, they are suffering from all the ailments the rest of society suffers from or more so since they’re extra stressed from trying to survive financially (most farmers have a second job to support their farming efforts).
Farmers, especially women, also are at risk of becoming depressed (Read about Farmwomen and depression as well as how to be happy in farming and contentment). Obviously the financial stress takes a toll, but also the fact that you become so isolated. I actually started an Airbnb on our farm so that I could have company every once in a while! #desperate lol! But it’s really helped and I’ve met so many nice people. One benefit I’m hoping for with homesteading is that I’ll have a little bit of extra time that I can visit neighbors and have friends over and be able to become a bit more social. Instead of spending four hours a day feeding and watering animals, I’m shooting for an hour.
Not doing what you love—burn out
I’ve noticed that the more focused on farming commercially I’ve become, the less I’ve focused on what makes me happy (because it’s not making me enough money). I love my geese and I love making jam and cheese and so on, but I’m not legally allowed to sell cheese for instance. So then I stop making cheese to focus on what makes me money.
Or here’s another example. I just bought bacon from the store because I just sold our last bit of pork. What??? How stupid is that. Well financially it’s not. I can sell my bacon for more than on sale stater brother’s bacon. But the consequence? I’m now supporting CAFO style farming, I’m eating food that’s not as healthy as what I raise, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t taste as good as our own pork. I’ve also lost the time to do my garden (doesn’t make money), take care of the orchard (doesn’t make money) and I’ve seriously neglected my commitment to renovating the old vineyard (doesn’t make money…yet). So basically, everything that I’ve started this ranch for, I’ve stopped doing. No wonder I’m feeling burned out.
It’s going to change
Long and short of it, life is going to change. I’m going to be less focused on making money and more focused on taking care of myself and my family and doing what makes me feel excited here. If I can’t make it work, if enough money doesn’t come in to keep the place going…well that’s ok. It’s ok because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing something that makes me feel unhappy just because it’s bringing in money. We should pursue what we’re good at and chances are success will follow. I’m good at homesteading and that’s what I’m going to do.