Grit Blogs > There and Back Again

Becoming a Farmer: What Does It Take?

Paula Ebert headshotThere are many things that make a successful farmer. But from my point of view, here you go:

First. Appropriate clothing that you don’t mind getting wet, muddy, or ruined. Muck boots – you know, that go up over your calves; winter coats – the kind from Tractor Supply that have snap fronts and durable wash- and-wear flannel; a winter hat, even if it is one of those “Deer Stalker” looking items. I’ve even resorted to over-alls in the winter. In the summer, you’re going to come in wet and disgruntled. Have at least two pairs of shoes, shorts and tops. Remember, you wanted this – two showers a day and clothing soaking from the humidity.

Second. The ability to separate yourself from your livestock. Yes, the chickens are wonderful and you love them. But the first time a coyote comes in and packs off with your favorite Australorp, you have to mourn and let it go. Poor thing. And plot your revenge on the coyotes. The same goes for the piggies that are now the ham on the Christmas table. At least they had a good life while it lasted.

Third. The ability to basically work without ceasing. OK, I take breaks, but my husband doesn’t, and I feel guilty, particularly in the summer. There is always something to be done. We never go to movies, rarely go into town, except for me to go to work; we eat a supper out occasionally; our last vacation was to a three-day family reunion last year. But it is amazing what you can accomplish if you just work slowly and steadily on something. I call it “the farmer way.”

Fourth. Stand over the canner, carefully pull out the jars, and listen to the satisfying sound of the POP as the lids snap into place and remember the connection you have with your grandmother and all the women who carefully put up this year’s produce for the winter. That is to say, find meaning in your chores. It makes them less of a chore.

Fifth. Involve your kids and grandkids in the various tasks. Not only do they need to learn responsibility, but you can model a good work ethic. My grandkids don’t live on the farm, and they fight over who will do the chores, although I often wonder if they’d do so if they lived here all the time.

Sixth. Remember to take in the sunrise. You’ll be up anyway, doing or feeding something. Remember to rise from the garden, and look at the Eastern Bluebirds or the Great Blue Heron. Feed the hummingbirds. Say to yourself – This is why I’m here.

Granddaughter on tractor 

cindy murphy
9/2/2011 7:14:19 AM

Hi, Paula. I'm not a farmer, but working at a nursery/garden center, I can definitely relate to Number 1. Dirt - check; we've got that. Being wet is a requirement, it seems, for working outside - if it's not from rain, it's from sweat. I especially like your Number 6 - an important aspect of life, no matter what occupation a person has chosen.


farmer di
8/30/2011 2:27:35 PM

Yep, I call it "slow farming." My husband and I leaped into this life earlier this year, from city apartment dwellers to full-time farmers. (I even called my wordpress blogthe clueless farmer!)We work as hard as we can, try not to feel too guilty when we rest, learn massive amounts of new things every day, appreciate the ever-changing skies and birds and pasture grasses, and made friends with the new pressure canner. It's true, the bit about finding meaning in chores, feeling a part of a long chain of timeless events. I'm hoping my nieces and nephews, who are currently video-game addicted, will one day soon race to feed the chickens and muck out the coops!


farmer di
8/30/2011 2:27:04 PM

Yep, I call it "slow farming." My husband and I leaped into this life earlier this year, from city apartment dwellers to full-time farmers. (I even called my wordpress blogthe clueless farmer!)We work as hard as we can, try not to feel too guilty when we rest, learn massive amounts of new things every day, appreciate the ever-changing skies and birds and pasture grasses, and made friends with the new pressure canner. It's true, the bit about finding meaning in chores, feeling a part of a long chain of timeless events. I'm hoping my nieces and nephews, who are currently video-game addicted, will one day soon race to feed the chickens and muck out the coops!


johninnc mts
8/30/2011 6:50:48 AM

Yup Paula, you nailed it in six points...Hands in the dirt, eyes on the dawning blue sky, part of a billion year process that is our planet and our home...in the weather with our two hands and two feet, seeking our food, shelter and comfort, just like all the other animals. Whether you believe we were made for this job or just arose out of the process; we are all the 'husbands' of this earth and our share of the ground. When we do this it 'fits', it works, we become sane and whole. We become authentic. Delusions fade. We serve ourselves, our families and our neighbors with our sweat, sore muscles and cuts and bruises...and the fruits of our labor. We participate in creation and Eden arises where we stand. It is reality. It is Holy. And it is damn hard work! I knew I had become a farmer when I fell asleep on the couch at sundown after a supper of food I had grown and raised; with a tool, seed or livestock catalog in my lap. AND was up before dawn cause 'there was stuff to do' that didn't require complex computations, modern electronic communication devices or a trip in a car...welcome to the 'party'.


nebraska dave
8/29/2011 5:31:47 PM

Paula, you are so on the right track to become a homestead farmer. The whole purpose of having a farm in the country is to enjoy the life. Some city folks have glamorized it with out considering the work involved every day. Your family has not forgotten why you chose to move to the country. Yes, it's hard work but there are so many things to enjoy that just can't be done in the city. My roots are from farming but my career came from technology. Now that I've left the technical world, my enjoyment comes from the farming roots of oh so long ago. No I don't have a farm but my backyard gardening has kept me quite busy enough. Be it ever so humble but quite satisfying. Your kids will be much better influenced by farm life than the city activities. Have a great day on the farm.