Saturday, February 26, 2011

Please don't call us a "farm"!

To get the full effect of this comment, you must do little “air-quotes” around the word FARM. No, wait…don’t do that!! That is just the thing I am writing about!

The dictionary defines a farm as “an area of land where crops are grown or animals are reared for commercial purposes, together with appropriate buildings.” Okay, so that makes us a FARM. No mention is made regarding size of the land, amount of money made, or number of animals housed.

Now, I admit, we’re not big, we don’t have impressive numbers of animals or the latest and greatest in equipment, but we are a FARM! (NO quotes) The little air-quotes somehow detract from our viability; make us sound like we’re not the real deal…that perhaps we’re just playing at this venture.

I will have to confess…I am a “sissy farmer” in some folks’ eyes. That one really bothers me sometimes. Yes, I sometimes cry when something dies, I name some of the animals, and I take all of this “to heart” far more than I “should”. Maybe Tom didn’t grow up farming the land with his daddy. And, no, we don’t make our own hay and grow our own grains, or grow enough to sell truckloads wholesale. Nor, might I add, do we want to (wholesale....Tom would LOVE to make hay AND run a combine). But, I will gladly stand up to prove that we are farmers, too. I can handle vet problems with the best of them, we know how to produce a number of different crops quite well and there is no job Tom hasn’t at least attempted. Our venture here generally runs “in the black”. We raised our kids with our earnings from this little piece of earth. The success stories speak for themselves.

The “big boys” in agriculture tend to look down on the little guys. I don’t think they do it intentionally, but they do it just the same. There are farmers who think you are really a farmer when you do all your work from the seat of your tractor. Field size is dictated by just how much diesel that tank can hold. I am here to tell you that a LOT of farming is done on your knees. Yes, that could be praying, but even more weeding, planting and harvesting is done down at ground level. In some ways, the small farmers work harder than the “big boys” because there is no equipment made for the small-scale operation and much of the work has to be done by hand.

Our small size puts us in the “hobby” or “niche” farm category. (Yes, I intentionally used those quotes) The niche and hobby farms are looked at with distain by a lot of folks. They are too small to be taken seriously, too profitable to ignore. Many folks use them to occupy their time following successful careers elsewhere. That’s not our story.

Years ago, when we applied for land use relief for our real estate taxes, the county wanted to know, “but, what do you DO?” Selling vegetables at the farmers’ market baffled the representative I spoke with. Once they saw our earnings for the season, their questions were put to rest. The only question then was….”the Farmers’ Market?” That was back in the day before Farmers' Markets were springing up everywhere, before it was cool to be green and/or organic.

Whether you grow 10,000 acres of soybeans or a couple acres of diverse vegetables for sale, you ARE a farm. As for being a hobby, a hobby is done strictly for fun….this is not always fun. ..although, it IS generally profitable. Nope, we’re not hobby farmers! We have yet to find the perfect niche, so I guess that doesn’t apply either. An enigma, that is what we are.

I don’t really think it matters how BIG the farm is, or possibly even how one practices farming, that matters. Agriculture is the heart and soul of this country. We’ve all got to eat, have clothing, and be sheltered. FARMS provide all those products. Just FARMS… quotes.

Don't even get me started on "farm-ette"!

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