Monday, November 3, 2014

Thinking "Outside the Box"

So…just how do you start a farm?
"...with a little help from my friends"

That depends greatly on who you are and how you approach life. ...and your definition of a farm. 

Maybe you go and get a big loan and buy all the latest, greatest equipment and find someone to teach you how to use it.  Maybe you find a successful farmer, apply for an apprenticeship and see how things progress. Maybe you have a plan, but not a place…you rent some land, gather some equipment and purchase some animals. Maybe you don’t have to start from scratch…maybe you’re born into it and just carry on the family tradition, changing some things to adapt to your leadership.

But, then again…if you’re anything like take a leap of faith in a moment of desperation, buy what you can afford…

…and just like that…it happens.

Okay, that is a complete and utter OVER-simplification! 

beginning excavation - 1997
Most folks wouldn’t look at our twelve acres of hill and rock and say, “a farm!  Yes, that should be a farm!”  Far from it. It’s way too small, too hilly and steep, and it is quite possible that the entire farm is simply one big rock covered in a thin layer of soil and grass. A place for fairly good sheep grazing and that’s about it. Nope, it is nobody’s idea of a farm. This thought is corroborated by the fact that this place had at least 4 owners in the span of 20 years and NO ONE ever built anything on it.  Let alone a home or a farm. At one point someone thought about living here and put in a septic system (THANK YOU!) Someone else planted a bunch of white pines in hopes of having a Christmas tree farm. That fell through and it sat idle once more. In a fit of frustration, one of the neighbors bush-hogged the trees in hopes of eradicating all the nesting birds.  What few trees we have are remnants of the long-forgotten tree farm venture.

Unlike all the folks who passed this by, when we saw the property for the first time, we saw it through the lens of possibility.  We were able to “think outside the box”. Although it is entirely possible that desperation colored our thinking. But there was, and is, a lot of potential on this little piece of ground. And for the record, a FARM is defined as "any area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager." (no other requirements)   

looking down front - 1997

There was a creek, indicating good water supply.  There were willow trees (don’t know why, but this was important to the daughters), fairly new fencing surrounded the property. And the septic field. That alone was worth a great deal!

Why we could put the house here.  What about a barn right there?  And this space would work for a garden…
1st garden - 1997

At that point, we weren’t thinking too far into the future.  The here and now was scary enough.  We didn’t notice all the rocks…or the relentless winds. We didn't worry about future expansion. We did see a place to set down roots while providing a stable home for our children and that was enough.

Over time the garden became gardens plural, the barn began to expand and hoophouses sprang from the landscape. More fencing defined grazing paddocks and animals made the empty fields their home once more.

Little by little, our tiny farm, perched on the hill, became a thriving entity. It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears…but that abandoned sheep field of long ago is barely recognizable.

from the top of the lane - 2013

Lesson Learned:

It's far too easy to let "analysis paralysis" keep you from any action.

Just start.  Pick something and work from that point. Borrowing the Nike slogan "JUST DO IT!"

Future changes are inevitable as you learn and grow.  Don't try to plan for those, embrace them when they come. (easier said than done)

Sometimes the solution is “outside of the box” and requires some real creative thinking and the perspective of possibility.

Don't forget to check out Holly Spangler's "Agriculturalists Who Influence"
and the rest of

30 Days Bloggers


  1. The farmer is a definite outside the box man!

  2. Read something the other day: Why do people Think outside the box? Why don't they just get Out of the box? Makes sense.

    I admit to feeling, at age 59, that I am too old to have one more go at getting out of the box. Fear, pure and simple. And fatigue. Saw something today that I would like to do. But I can think of a million reasons why it will not work/fail/etc. Here it is:

    1. I don't know that I would want to have to start anything new at this point of my life, either. never know.
      I saw the laundry van somewhere else earlier today. While I suppose there are a lot of things that could go wrong, my immediate thought was "oh cool. What a wonderful way to minister to others!" I don't think I would ever be so bold.

  3. But, you are ALREADY that bold! I'm the one who is the weenie.