Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Small Farming Story

I rarely read Salon but I went over and found this interesting article.

The writer laid out her dream job and all this enthusiasm for farming.  She took it on as an occupation with her friend.  Ten acres, a business plan circling around organic vegetables and lots of sweat.  The result?  About forty lines into the essay, she notes that it's virtually zero-profit.  There's maybe a hundred hours of work put into the farm between her and the friend each week and they probably average around a $100 each for profit.....which certainly isn't enough to sustain an operation.  It took a long time, but she eventually realized that it'll never cross the line and be something to depend upon.

The reality of life is that farming used to be the chief occupation of most Americans.....all the way to the 1920s.  That period ended, and the reality is a pretty harsh thing to face up to today.

You can operate a 200-acre farm with various angles and probably make just enough to sustain the farm and live a meaningful but limited lifestyle.  This kinda means you don't take vacations....you press forward with fifty to sixty hour work-weeks.....and you get smart on mechanics, agriculture, and innovation.

You might be able to run some bio-farm operation, where you cut corners and say you 'organic' in the briefest sense of the word....with some cash flow that pays the briefest of lifestyles.  The reality is that either your wife/husband/partner has a real job and bringing in the bulk of money for living expenses, or you grow marijuana on the side as your other organic cash-crop.

There's some odd group of agriculturally-inclined intellectual-farmers who have a great passion for the art of farming, and want to have something that resembles a farm and a profit-making enterprise.  Maybe they watched Green Acres as a kid, or they had some professor from college who talked about the natural lifestyles of farming, or maybe they just observed some Mennonites and wanted the humble lifestyle.  It doesn't matter.....it was mostly just a fantasy (like you hooked up with some Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, or you won a million on the Lottery).

 One of the things you pick up when you visit George Washington's Mount Vernon farm.....is that he had almost sixty different crops or animal ideas in operation.  There was even the distillery function on the side.  But this was never a big-profit type operation.....it simply had a cash-flow.

The title of this essay on Salon is "What Nobody Told Me About Small Farming".   There's not exactly some wise guy standing out there at the end of high school and noting all the professions that really don't pay off.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be that stupid to spend four years and $90,000 at some university to get a degree in French literature.....nor would you invest $20,000 into an organic farm and spend years trying to reach a point of profitability.  Perhaps the last six weeks of high school ought to be about the realities of life......but after you've wasted twelve years of high school.....you really don't want any wisdom at this conclusion point.

So, I kinda end this essay with some brief advice.  If you did watch Green Acres over and over, and got this crazy idea that farming could be in your blood......give it a shot, and when you realize all the issues with it......count it as a lesson in reality.

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