I saw a bald eagle flying over our farm a few days ago, and it made me think ...
We’ve been here on the farm for almost a year and a half now and the transition has been interesting to say the least. Toss a toddler and a new baby in the mix and life turns into a train on its own track. If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that there have been many ups and downs, successes and failures. We’ve spent a lot of time getting things cleaned up and tried to develop an operation that is both profitable and efficient, it has not been and continues to not be an easy venture.
I look back at these short 18 or so months and am in awe of the trek. The grand plans that we started with were blooming with ideals but not rooted in experience. This has proven to be a boon to us. We were not wed to the convention of old but rather allowed to take the best of what was available and discard the rest. This put us at odds with many of the paradigms that must be in place for most traditional farm to succeed. To say that bigger is not necessarily better and that the “economy of scale” builds a house of cards caused many people to look at us as a hobby farm or just some city kids playin’ farm.
Deep down though, they know we’re right. They’ve seen their farms ravaged and plundered by the government. The ideals and goals that they had when they were kids sitting on their daddy’s lap drivin’ the tractor have been replaced by an unprofitable dairy, crops that the government pays for, and the sad realization that their friends have sold out and they are the only ones left.
Most of us will never know the ecology of farm life 30 years ago. The story was very common here in the Midwest but its tale is echoed all across America. Farms thrived. I mean REALLY thrived, not just getting bigger to stay in business. You farmed, your brother farmed down the road, your cousin farmed in the next town over. You split the farm with your brother when your parents hung up their spurs just as they did when their parents passed on. If you had a question or were in a tough time people rallied around you. When you had an out-building that needed to be raised, the men-folk put in the work and the women crafted high summer meals and drinks when the day was done. Large gatherings of friends and family were the norm, not the exception. All that is left of that era are fields of corn and abandoned homesteads. The only “farmers” left are the ones who adapted to the “agribusiness.” They are wildly popular and have thousands of acres that they purchase as each little family farm dries up. Get big or get out.
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Life is cyclical isn’t it? I love humanity, we have a such an amazing capacity to weather the storms of history. In just a few short years we have seen a generation grow up that has said to its shackles, “I’m done with you. I’m done with your models, your schemes, your perceived wealth, I’ll do it MY way!” And you do. You find yourself newly liberated, it’s refreshing but the weight of being an outcast soon begins to be realized. Your friends don’t seem to call as much, the refrigerator begins to look sparse, and one by one the amenities that you had surrounded yourself with either are jettisoned or confiscated. Is this what it means to be free? I didn’t know it would be this tough? I didn’t know it would feel this alone.
It is at this moment that you have truly realized your freedom. Life is not about “going it alone,” life is about surrounding yourselves with people who share your ideals, people who are personally and intimately vested in your family’s life. People who can answer the questions you have, people who will be there when you need. Freedom is not the answer, freedom is just an ingredient. Community is the key. Without community you simply have islands. Community is learned through compassion, through empathy, and most importantly, through the giving of time. Community is not available for most Americans. They are too busy watching primetime television, spending 2 hours a day on a commute, and being just too worn out to give a damn.
Congratulations friend, you are on the path to being unlocked. You are asking the questions that are vital in the liberation of your spirit. Keep asking, persevere, have integrity, you will see your dreams.
As I sit here, sipping my coffee with my newborn son passed out on my chest, my wife and daughter still sleeping, and the animals already in the fields enjoying a dew-drenched breakfast, I wonder when it happened: the moment I got the life I never knew I always wanted ...