Real Farm: What Is a Farm and What Is Farm Life Like?

| 6/1/2010 11:19:05 AM

Tags: Farm, Odom's Idle Acres, Homesteading,

A photo of Drew OdomI am an avid reader of Jenna W. and her Cold Antler Farms blog. In fact, it was one of my early introductions to homesteading and following one's rural dreams. Like her I am a graphic designer and I have to work a day job to keep things rolling around the farm. I digress though. I really just wanted to point out a rather remarkable post of hers from May 29. Entitled, "a real farm?" she tackles the question(s) that many of us face on a regular basis – What is a real farm? What makes it real? Her answers are spot on.


As the weekend continued and I found myself moving at a pretty good clip from task to task (in fact, as I write this I have one eye on the screen and another on the burn barrel just outside my window as I am trying to get rid of some old scrap wood that is too soggy to use for anything). Friday evening brought front yard work and cleaning the water feature. Saturday was invested in pressure washing the house and main fencing (complete all day job). Sunday was consumed by finishing up the solar heated outdoor shower (more on that in an upcoming blog post). Monday was spent cleaning out the garage and barn and trimming up the gardens. Of course we did BBQ in the evening and that made all the sweat and tears worthwhile. But mind you, all of this was done in between harvesting plants, taking care of chickens, doing odds and ends, moving dirt from one pile to another, dodging impending rain, etc. It is a balancing act, to be sure. "Where is he going with this," you might be asking. Well, all of this work and its products make Odom's Idle Acres every bit a farm.

As Jenna puts it, "As far as I'm concerned, if you have a backyard with veggies and a few hens, and you not only consume it yourself but others do as well (friends, neighbors, your community) you are a real farm. You are a producer. You are feeding people. You are real." So OIA is a real farm – all 2.35 acres of it. We have 3 gardens, a corn field, a barn, solar power, chicken houses, etc. We feed ourselves (almost 60 percent of our monthly diet is sourced here), and we feed others. While we don't sell we tithe our extra and donate it to whom we feel led to. So yes, we are a real farm. And the aforementioned tasks – work, some may say – is what life is like on it!

[Jenna also sometimes contributes to The Happy Homesteader on the website of our sister publication, MOTHER EARTH NEWS. – Ed. ]

6/2/2010 8:00:02 PM

Thank you Farmer Cindy. You need to get you some chicks though!

cindy murphy
6/2/2010 7:52:56 PM

Cool beans! I now have a valid reason for my "farmer's tan" - I'm a farmer too! Sort of - a semi-farmer, maybe. No chickens. Great post, Farmer Andrew - loved it.

6/2/2010 2:19:47 PM

You can drive all night, you can drive all day / You can drive over anything gettin' in your way / Now it's driving you crazy cuz you can't afford to stay / Down on the American Farm

hank will_2
6/2/2010 2:04:43 PM

Dude! Odom's Idle Acres is absolutely a farm. No question about it. In some states where there are real estate tax breaks for farmland, the minimum is 5 acres. But that's just to keep people with smaller area farms from getting a break. Imagine how many farms there would be if everyone engaged with growing their own food and a little extra for neighbors got a tax break. And think about how cool it would be if the tax incentive caused even more people to grow more of their own food ... I'll stop there so I won't be tempted to rewrite my favorite Arlo Guthrie tune.

6/2/2010 8:22:31 AM

@MountainWoman - Heart and Soul. I think that is the answer to my riddle; heart and soul.

mountain woman
6/2/2010 6:06:35 AM

I was writing you a comment and it disappeared so if you get two from me, I'm sorry. Anyway, I was going to say I'm Nebraska Dave's age and I share with him the definition of farms. Back in my youth, in New England, it was rolling acres dotted with red barns, cows in the pasture and nothing but land as far as the eye can see and I always longed to be part of that although my journey has kept me in the cities for most of my life. Even so, I'd like to think I was a "farmer" in that I cherished my small plot of earth, even when it was just hanging baskets from city apartments and I've always tried to live in harmony with nature and the seasons and remembering always that we are here for a brief moment in time and are stewards as opposed to owners. I think it's not necessarily the acreage you own that determines whether you are a farmer but the heart and soul you have to work gently with what you have and that connection we have to our piece of earth. We cheer when it yields crops, scratch our head at garden pests and just generally try to do our best. Very thought provoking article.

6/1/2010 6:59:30 PM

You raise great points Dave. The suburbinization and urbanation of our world has caused the definitions to change drastically. When the gov't began subsidizing farms and just post-Victory garden days farms turned to tracts wherein the 2-3 acre farm of the 30s and 40s (and even 50s) became little more than a double lot. We are going to see a lot more of this flip flop scenario in the future. People want more and they want to be more connected. However, you raise a good point. Without the heart of the farmer not even a large front yard will work!

nebraska dave
6/1/2010 6:57:57 PM

Drew, what is a farm? That’s an interesting question. I have memories of farm life from 45 years ago but today it would look quite different here in the Midwest. What used to be a farm is now thought of as a homestead or acreage. Farms of the past used to be measured in 40 acre and 80 acre segments. Now they are measured in sections (640 acres). Tractors used on the farm were 20 and 30 horse power and now they have over 200 horse power. The whole view of the farm may have changed but the heart of the true farmer has not. Oh yes there are corporate farmers but I’m talking about the true farmer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bio intensive back yard experiment or a big 1000 acre farm. If the intent is to produce good quality food to feed those that can not raise food then I say it’s a farm. My three raised beds were planted with the sole purpose to feed me, the neighbors, and maybe those that eat at a food kitchen. For me it’s not about survival although it may come to that but about provision for those that need it. I guess it comes from my heritage roots of the Midwest farm culture. It seems to be a disappearing culture that is being reborn as a grass roots movement from those tired of the busy city cubicle business life. The migration of the city to the country and the country to the city is kind of ironic isn’t it?

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