Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Way of Life

In other posts, I have talked about some of the precipitating factors that led me to want to make my living farming, but I don't know that I have spent very much time addressing why this is important to me. We all do what we do and live how we live for a whole variety of reasons, some of which we may not have much of an actual handle on. Or maybe ya'll do, and I'm the only one that doesn't ! :)

Anyway, I find farming attractive because if it's set up right, it's something that a husband and wife (and kids, too, should we be blessed that way) can work at together. There are lots and lots of reasons why this sort of thing may not work out as you had planned. I'll be the first one to tell you that this sort of dream can turn into a nightmare pretty quickly if one's spouse is not 100 % behind it, or if you and your spouse just flat out can't work together. There are legions of pitfalls, some of which I have described in other posts. But....if you *can* work with your spouse, and if you *desire* to work and live closely with your immediate family, if it's set up right, farming can offer a very attractive lifestyle and a good living, too. I hasten to add that so, too, can a lot of other businesses, but farming is that with which I am familiar, so that's the path I chose.

Although the type of farming we do is a business like any other, it is also very much a lifestyle; so much so that if you removed the elements I find enjoyable about the lifestyle I can't think of one good reason why farming the way we do for a living would be attractive. Our patrons and clients know (and are reassured by the fact) that I have no desire to become the Wal-Mart of retired horses or freezer beef. At some point, I think it's very possible to grow too big, although I don't exactly know where that is for our operation. I know for sure that I'm just not interested in hiring (and managing) a group of managers to direct employees toward tasks that I'd really rather complete myself !

In many respects, farming the way we do it is a 24 hour a day job, and since we live in the middle of our work space, it's difficult to differentiate between work and leisure a lot of the time. This drives a lot of folks nuts. I wrote a post about what we do for down time and I can't stress enough that engineering some down time is extremely necessary if one is to maintain one's sanity. Down time in this occupation has to be planned for; often well ahead of time. Our sort of farming would be a bad job for someone who enjoyed spending a lot of time away from home or for someone who really likes spontaneous travel and outings, as did my ex-wife.

Most of the time, Melissa and I are pretty content to be here, working at separate tasks but within earshot of one another every day. I love what I do and I am blessed in my choice of partner to help me. Ours truly is a great life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in Canada !


blogfourfiveone said...

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Jack said...

The part of this that I struggle with is how does society (government) recognize the importance of "small" farms and provide the structure and frame work that allows them to survive and thrive?
The vast majority of people get their food from the supermarket and have no empathy for the "family" farm as you describe it.
When the majority of the market is price conscious and the supermarkets are advertising that they have the lowest prices and the best food it seems to me that it plays into the hands of the "large farms". Your comments in a previous post about immigration and "illegal immigrants" is one of the parts of this puzzle. In Canada we have a program that allows immigrant farm workers to come in for the growing season and then return to Mexico or the Caribean for our winter. They send most if not al of their earnings home. This program exits because there is a shortage of workers willing to work the hours for the pay and conditions that go with farm work.

Jason said...


I know this farm is viable because we've developed two niche markets that allow us to carve out a handy living.

Our horse business is a service sector thing and it's priced accordingly but I sell my beef at or slightly below super market prices. I believe that what I do here has to be price competitive if it is to be viable in the long term.

Keeping this business viable engages every aspect of my personality and brain and I love every minute of it, including writing this blog.

Large farms in the US are a different monkey altogether than large farms in Ontario. This isn't Hoskins or Miedema Brothers with 200 milk cows, or DeJong Farms with 500 sows. Those guys are just like me...they're family farmers making a living.

Down here, large scale "industrial agriculture is practiced on scale that is hard to understand until one has seen it. In our neck of the woods, we're talking vertically integrated hogs and chickens on a HUGE scale. Our local hog integrator will farrow to finish upward of a million market hogs this year. The three local chicken integrators each have a feed mill as a part of their complexes. Combined, they will put out 30,000 ton of feed a week. It's been my experience that these sorts of businesses don't have a lifestyle component. They are ONLY in it for the money and they don't have much time to fool with individual anything, people or animals. I'm not condemning them, but I'm not interested in farming that way, either.

Jason said...

Happy Turkey Day, 451 ! :)