The Washington Post folks wrote up a curious story today and discussed this new trend seen....people in their mid-30s to mid-40s.....giving up their technology or IT or business-related job.....and going to farming work. It's not a big trend, but it's being discussed openly because it's such a dramatic change for folks, especially those who didn't really grow up on a farm.
Years ago, I worked with an Air Force guy who was retiring after twenty years and decided to resettle with his wife....back to where she grew up in Iowa, and he was going to go and buy some sixty-acre farm. I questioned the guy because he was one of those folks who'd grown up in suburban New Jersey and knew enough about farming to fill up three 3x5 cards.
His attitude was that this wasn't a big deal. He intended to garden out around twenty acres for some minor amount of production (strictly for a fruit stand operation), and have around a dozen cows. His wife did have some knowledge but hadn't lived in a farming situation in at least fifteen years. He had a collection of a dozen-odd books on how to farm, and simply was going to go small-scale. A guy could probably go at this, in a small vision situation....and succeed. The one benefit was that he had the Air Force pension, and the wife was a nurse.
The appeal of this farm life for these people? I think they want a stress-free life, and think that farming will give it to them. I tend to disagree about farm life being stress-free but it's up to the individual involved and what they think is stress.
Bound for failure? It would be curious about the statistics on this lifestyle change. How many of these 'new' farmers wake up after a couple of years and regret the farm life and long to return to cubicle work?
The difference in lifestyle? Once you settle on farming, you get into a new sleep schedule. You get up at 5AM....to sip down a coffee, and then launch into sixty to ninety minutes of some work task. Then you settle back for sausage, eggs, biscuits, jam, and gulp down two more cups of coffee, while watching 'Tina-Louise' on channel 4 report on local weather, a tractor-trailer accident, and fishing boat sinking on the river.
By 7:30, you are off on task list number two...with twelve things that really need to be done by noon. You are hoping that no one stops by the farm to chat, or to draw your attention off the priority list. Weather matters as well because half of the twelve things can only be done on a non-rainy day. You also are dependent that 'Rummy' (your least favorite steer) hasn't broken down the back fence and escaped for the 3rd time this month.
By noon, you are worked up for hunger, and have to make a decision.....a Turkey sandwich with a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, or you go down to the Green Velvet Grill for a plate of greasy catfish and hushpuppies. You would get all the gossip of the day that you needed at the grill, but you'd have to sit and hear Marvin tell about his wife's relatives, or listen to Woody describe how he found Jesus the sixth time in four years (always after a revival), or give a few moments to Wanda the waitress describe her lack of passion with her man and that she might be giving you the 'eye' (as we say in Alabama).
By 1:30 in the afternoon, you are onto task list number two....which requires a brief run to the farm store and a 30-minute discussion with Lester, the sales guy, over some remarkable technology coming out of Iowa, and trying to limit your spending today to just $200.
By 4:00, you are rushing through to get six small tasks down, and the dog is letting you know that it's about feeding time with the special doggy treats. A thunderstorm typically runs through about 25-percent of the time at this point in the afternoon and spoils the rest of your task list.
You eat a early dinner, and guzzle down another Pabst at this point. By 6PM, you are working on a project list and trying to mow the grass if the storm didn't occur.
Toward 8PM, you have the mail in your hand and realize that the truck tags have expired (you just forgot to put that task on your list last month). So you put the renewal as priority number one tomorrow morning, and realize that kills off almost two hours of time to make the run, stand in the stupid in with sixteen other folks who also forgot about their renewal, and deal with some half-wit clerk who barely graduated high school.
Around 9PM, you get a call that such-and-such neighbor that you know fairly well is bad off and in the hospital. Their farm task schedule is way behind, and you call up his wife to volunteer your afternoon tomorrow to help out. She's awful appreciative of your offer of help, and wants to return the favor by mentioning her cousin is finally divorced and she could 'fix' you up with her. You politely decline....knowing that the cousin is a nutcase and been arrested on four occasions for assault.
Round about 9:30 PM, you've reached maximum intensity for the day and fallen asleep. Next to the nightstand is a task listing for the next day, and for that matter....a task list for the next thirty days, with no real time off....other than to shop at Piggly Wiggly, get a haircut, or waiting for a thunderstorm to wrap up.
Is this the lifestyle that these converted farmers desire? Maybe. Or maybe they just aren't aware of the various entanglements to the farm lifestyle.