I was talking with my grandmother on the phone the other day--telling her about the farm and why I hadn’t had a chance to call in a few days, when she said something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. She said, “Well, I know you’re working hard, but I just hope it’s worth it.” She went on to elaborate that monetarily, she hoped the farm was successful because otherwise it was a lot of work for nothing.
I’ve been mulling that over and thinking about why I farm. I am not sure that I know the complete answer. Aside from all of the political, ethical, and moral reasons- there is something more to this question. Something- guttural. There are certainly days where I am convinced that we are insane. For example, we figured out that we average about 85 hours of work a week, each. (Obviously some of Kim’s are off farm). And while we are doing wonderful for our first year as a really small agricultural business, the budget is tight. We don’t take a pay check from the farm yet. So it’s certainly not that I do this because it’s leisurely or getting me rich. And it can be hard on your body, yea- we are in great shape- but we also push ourselves too far- get injuries, heat exhaustion, etc. As we speak I’m icing a shoulder injury I have from repetitive movement. It was 103 when I came in for lunch today, I felt like a burn piece of bacon. I’m not complaining, it’s just the honest truth.
But when it comes right down to it, I farm because I have to. I feel compelled to do the work we do, and I am completely unhappy and unsatisfied doing other work. I’m defiant, stubborn, and a perfectionist. Farming challenges those parts of me, forces me to accept that nature will always win (sometimes to my benefit, sometimes not) and allows me to live a very purposeful life. While we are very much tied down to the farm, I also feel like I have total control over my life. There is always work to do, but I do it because I want to, and there is a clear reward. I decide my own hours, chores, etc. It’s ours to fail, it’s ours to succeed. The independence of the work is freeing and the demand of the work is requires focus and intense dedication.
I’ve always been food obsessed. There wasn’t much food in my house growing up, and my mom is a terrible cook when she remembered to make food for us. My grandmother is a wonderful cook and spent long hours teaching me the ins and outs of her family’s cuisine. I worked in restaurants as a teenager, cooperative markets, and several farms. I’ve made really elaborate meals, quick foods, from-scratch specialties and guilty pleasures. I love to eat, and am notorious for getting ‘hangry’ (if I’m hungry, I’m angry). I suppose another reason I farm is that striving for only the most delicious meals. If I think it's not tasty- I'm not eating it- cue the Hangry.
On top of this, I admittedly have a life experience that involves some really dark points where I wasn't sure my future was all that bright. When I farm, I ensure that I will not go hungry again, I honor my grandmother, and prove that I have a future. Everything about farming is planning, squirreling away, preparing for what comes next. This life reinforces security for me in so many ways.
I also don't think it's a coincidence that I studied drama in high school, and a variety of performance arts. Again, a tumultuous upbringing means that I'm more accustomed to intense situations. In my younger years this familiarity with upheaval lead to explosive relationships with people- a healthier version of myself gets all the drama I could handle on farm. In our first year, we have had an incredibly dry, hot season. This had given me all of the heartbreak of a soap opera. It's not easy to deal with the violent upswings and down turns of farm life, but I think I must secretly crave it.
I farm because I can't stop myself, and because it is the only thing I've found that helps me really make sense of the world. I farm to share all that with others. The security, the flavor, the preparedness, the drama- all of it. For better and for worse, this is who I am and what I need to do.