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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