Grit Blogs > Life at Cobble Hill Farm

Backyard Farming: What Constitutes a Farm?

Goat close up 

I’ve recently received a couple of emails from people who don’t like the fact that we’ve deemed our backyard farm a “farm.” It’s funny because the word “farm” most often conjures up images of cattle grazing in a large field with a large red and white barn in the background. But in all honesty, the word “farm” can define any number of descriptions of property.

  • WSDA defines a small farm as one where the farmer or farm family participates in the day-to-day labor and management of the farm, and owns or leases its productive assets.
  • Merriam-Webster defines a farm as: a plot of land devoted to the raising of animals and especially domestic livestock.

We are definitely participating in the day-to-day labor and management, we own the assets and our land is, in fact, devoted to the raising of animals. So, we will keep our property defined as a “backyard farm.”

I understand the confusion. There’s confusion about terms in all aspects of life. One day I was having a conversation with 2 acquaintances about voluntary simplicity. Person A was asking me what voluntary simplicity was. I answered that I believe everyone has to define it for themselves as my idea certainly may not be yours, but the general idea is:

  1. Living within our means
  2. Making our money work for us rather than working for money to support our lifestyle
  3. Supporting local farmers, crafters, etc.
  4. Being kind to others and the planet
  5. Consuming less
  6. Doing it ourselves when we can
  7. Making do with what we've got
  8. Being ourselves
  9. Living consciously and savoring moments
  10. Living healthy (food, excercise, relationships)
  11. Making time (prioritization)
  12. Practicing gratitude

I do believe that each person should set their own definition, or at least what each of these means to them.

After I answered, person A commented she is thinking of setting her own goal of striving toward simplicity. This upset person B since person A lives in what is best described as a “mcmansion” and lives an indulgent life, from the perception of others. After person A left, person B exclaimed “phony.” I understood the thought, but, as I explained to her, if she sets her own vision for “simplicity” how can we determine it as phony? It’s not up to us to judge others and their lifestyle choices.

In all honesty, some people could say the same about us. Jay and I are digging our hands into the homesteading lifestyle, however, we don’t intend to, for instance, ever live fully off grid or slaughter our own animals. To some people, you could not define our lifestyle as homesteading.

We still "indulge," as perceived by us – we have the wonderful Miss Sarah, our petsitter, during the week for our boys, we go out for meals from time to time, buy a latte or two at Starbucks, own 2 new vehicles (although we keep them until they stop running), spend money on hobbies we enjoy, and go on vacation when we want.

The whole point is to become consciously aware of how you live your life and make choices for yourself and your family.  Let's face it, tomorrow is no guarantee so enjoy every moment of today.

I'm enjoying my today, right now, drinking a wonderful cup of hot cocoa as the snow continues to fall all around me on my farm.

kathyk
11/19/2010 1:07:32 PM

Nancy, I use dryer lint by placing it in a mesh bag (from store bought onions or oranges) hanging near my dryer. When full, I tie the bag closed and hang it outside in early spring for the birds to use for nest building. I also put excess hair from brushing my pets into the mesh bag.


kathyk
11/19/2010 1:02:23 PM

Am I already registered? I can't remember.


nancy peltzer
11/19/2010 10:22:45 AM

It's fun to ask people, "If you were homeless, with nothing but the clothes on your back, what would be the first thing you would look for?" We all need water, food, clothing, and shelter, but if you have nothing at all, the definition of "necessity" would change radically. I don't believe simplicity means going without any enjoyment and always slugging it out, but it's interesting to see what can go and not be missed. Now to figure out what to do/make with all that dryer lint... Nancy


staci
11/17/2010 12:24:51 PM

Thank you Cindy. I agree, it is definitely a blurred line. And you are correct that it's difficult to explain your philosophy without sounding preachy. Wow Carmin - you make great use of your piece of property. I could definitely learn from you. I am struggling with how to best use mine. I'm still making modifications but we are getting there. Staci


carmin
11/14/2010 2:32:15 PM

My lot is 1/3 of an acre and I consider it a micro-farm. I grow many kinds of annual and perennial vegetables, a fruit orchard (22 trees), an area with 11 pines and oaks that are close to 100 years old, a berry patch that includes close to 100 raspberry plants (9 different kinds), grape vines, fruit shrubs of many kinds, a herb garden, native wildflowers and perennial flower beds, areas for wildlife (certified backyard wildlife habitat). I even have a separate workshop/cottage. If that doesn't qualify as a farm, I don't know what will. My daughter's in-laws have close to 2,000 acres and all they grow is potatoes, corn and a large row of trees that act as a windbreak.


cindy murphy
11/13/2010 8:39:39 AM

Beautifully said, Staci. This is the best article I've read on adopting a simpler lifestyle in quite a while. Just as the definition of what constitutes a "farm" seems to be blurred, it seems there is a fine line between sharing experiences in achieving a more simple life so that others may be inspired, versus coming off as sounding preachy or self-righteous. I've heard and read many of the latter. You managed, quite eloquently, to achieve the former. Enjoy the day. Cindy


staci
11/10/2010 8:14:36 AM

Thanks Nebraska Dave and Paul. I agree with you Dave, so many things are made from plastic and/or don't offer replacement parts. Paul - I'm with you regarding frugality. There are many things I'm very frugal with, but there are certainly things I splurge on. Regardless, I would still consider myself "frugal". Staci


nebraska dave
11/9/2010 4:44:46 PM

@Staci, I like the term voluntary simplicity. I am in the midst of just such a time in life. The thing that really gripes me is that very few things are made to fix any more. If they can be fixed, it’s so complicated that ordinary people can’t accomplish the task without expensive tools. I still try my best to fix it if it can be fixed, buy used if it seems logical, recycle and reuse if I can, and always wait several days or more for major purchases. I’m with you on cars. When I finally get rid of a car even the junk man cringes as he winches it up on the platform hauler and takes it away. I have learned how to nurse every useful mile out a car and then drive it several thousand miles more. People might laugh as I clunk down the road, but it’s paid for and it doesn’t cost a lot for license and insurance. I’m not against new vehicles and I own a Ford Ranger names Ranger Rick that I bought new six years ago. It’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. I expect to still have it on the road in 20 years. Have a great voluntary simplistic day.


paul gardener
11/9/2010 4:11:31 PM

Stacie, From top to bottom of this blog I could not agree with you more heartily! You state it perfectly. I have to wonder why people were so annoyed at your use of the word farm, but hey, it takes all kinds doesn't it. I love your definition of Voluntary simplicity as well. It's something I struggle with defining on my own too sometimes. There are times when I'm frugal as a quaker, and others I'm frivolous as a teenager. I agree though, that it means being aware of what we do and our impact in doing it. Very well written. Paul~