Because it’s a farm

I heard today that our tenant farmer–he plants our 100 or so acres of tillage–thinks my wife and I are ripping off my mother-in-law because, well, there are goats eating grass in the front yard and chickens eating grass in the back. That’s not how things are supposed to be, you know, because now the farm looks like… a farm.

This kind of nonsense has been an ongoing part of my acclimatization into the world of someone trying to farm sustainably in a world filled with industrial workers whose job happens to be the planting and harvest of organic manufacturing components. Most of my fellow farmers have lost sight of the age old understanding borne of thousands of years of human agriculture, which wisdom states that the farmer feeds himself and his own first, the people around him next, and then sells whatever might be left to buy the things he cannot grow or make himself.

To our tenant farmer, the secret to farming is to borrow tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to plant and harvest thousands of acres of crops that humans can no longer directly consume, to sell those crops for prices determined by speculators who never have his best interest in mind, and to dump his commodity into an industrial supply system whose product he has to pay for even though it could not exist without his tireless effort. And, if there’s a bad year, he could easily fold and have very little or nothing to show for it.

To me, the secret to farming is what I have already noted. First, plant and raise food–food people can eat straight from the plant or animal without the intermediary of industrial processing. Second, raise that food to feed me and mine first. Third, make sure the people around me are fed. Fourth, sell whatever is left to buy what I cannot grow or make myself. The thing is, even in the worst years, it is possible to eke out an existence following that method– if it weren’t, most of us would not be here today.

So, yeah, our farm looks like a farm, and that’s on purpose. We can eat what we’re doing here. How many farmers can say that?


4 thoughts on “Because it’s a farm

  1. “After all, DLH farms are not zoned to be like houses in housing additions. Attracting nature seems like the way to go.”

  2. That’s true, DJ, although modern urban and suburban zoning laws that prohibit small farm animals are based more on mythology than on facts.

  3. Good morning Denny,
    This is cathy (craig) albea. I am so into what you and keba are doing with your farm. My husband (glenn) and I are moving back to Greenwood, SC. The mooral to this is we are going to have 3 acres and I wanting to go back to farming and growing our own food..

    Any suggestions that you have found out when starting out with your farm the do’s and don’t of it.
    Thank you for taking the time and I am so proud that our young people are into mother earth agian
    God Bless you cathy

  4. Cathy, it’s great to hear from you, and I am excited to hear about your upcoming adventure into growing your own food. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin with the do’s and don’ts, but I can give one overarching piece of advice: try it and see what happens.

    A few great books to start with for information are Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, Backyard Farming by Derek Hall, Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon, and McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey (don’t be put off by the container gardening focus, it has great information on all kinds of plants).

    I also subscribe to the magazines Grit, Hobby Farms, Mother Earth News, and Rural Heritage, all of which have regular great information on small-scale farming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.