From the earliest age that I can remember-farms and farm animals have been in my world. When I was four, maybe five, I remember visiting my grandparents on their farm. My grandpa had draft horses, milk cows, and chickens. Oh, and kittens and a puppy too. To encourage me to make the long trip to the U.S. from Canada by bus all my Mom had to remind me of was the kittens. Once there I would run around outside for hours, visiting the chickens, watching my grandpa milk and playing with the kittens. Within a couple of years my Mom met a farmer and again I was encouraged to leave the place of my birth, my school, and friends to move to the U.S. and live on a farm. And so I did. Though I was unhappy a lot in my younger years, I enjoyed growing up on a farm.
Perhaps my biggest regret of my wasted youth was not getting to know the farmer behind the great farm I grew up on– my step-father. As his young daughter, I simply worshiped this great man who rose every day at 5 a.m and worked tirelessly until after dark at night. Even sick he worked. Even when he could hardly move his body from arthritis or take a breath because of respiratory problems he’d had for what seems forever he worked every day. He took care of his farm, his animals, and his family well. Even though I know there are many men and women farming who love the land as much as he did. In my honest and humble opinion he was and is the best farmer I will ever know. Because of my own personal issues I never got close to my step-father and that will always be a profound regret of mine. I have talked to him many times since he’s been gone, and I know he is in a better place albeit I always thought that to be the home farm. If not for his farm; the farm I grew up on, my younger years would have been nearly unbearable. In me, I see the things I picked up from him. His memory lives in me each day, in who I’ve become, and in how hard I work. A part of him is in the reason I feel the way I do about animals, about feeding my family well and my desire to help feed others.
I recently learned that all of my grandfathers back four generations on my biological dad’s side were farmers (this was a major revelation for me) and this has caused me great pride. I now know that farming is in my blood. My last grandfather to farm was Manuel. He struggled to work the family farm even though he wasn’t really happy farming. He did so out of obligation. He died at forty after a long illness. His family was young and none of his children were old enough to work the farm while he recovered from illness. Soon after his death his family lost the farm, and that was the last farmer in the family on my Dad’s side.
When I am around farmer’s, reading about farmer’s I feel a sense of peace. They are my people. We as a people owe a great debt to those people that have from maybe the very beginning of time worked diligently to feed all of us. And I’m not in any way speaking about factory farms. I am speaking about family farms, families living and farming together. The family farm being passed down to son or daughter and the tradition of living and working the same land generation after generation to feed all of us.
Lately, I’ve spent many hours reading about homesteading, organic and urban agriculture. Some of the books I’ve read are: Farm City by Novella Carpenter, Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister and The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. I’ve also purchased several films on Amazon that I think are good depictions of what farming is really like if you’re not familiar with it or want a refresher course in farming 101 like I did. They are: Farming Forward, Betting the Farm, Eating Alabama, The Organic Life, The First Season and To Make a Farm.
My heart says it is never too late to live your dream, to accept your calling or to go after what you want and just do it. That said, physically and monetarily there are limits. I do not have aspirations to milk cows, although I love farms, barns and dairy cows. So I know I will not become a dairy farmer. I am also certain I will not become a large crop farmer growing corn, hay or soybeans. I’m looking into learning how to become – a food farmer( growing food for human consumption). Thankfully my husband is entirely on board with this so it is something that in the next two years we will begin doing together. The first step of this conceived plan is for me to graduate, which happens in just two weeks. The second step will be for us to get our affairs in order with our current home, jobs, and priorities and start visiting some of the places we’ve thought about relocating to which will help us decide where we want to make our forever home, and then once that is decided the next step will be to buy a home with land. I will still work away from our farm at a job in town because that is how we will finance our dream. Though I wish I would have heeded my true calling some twenty years ago, I’m glad I went to college and will now be able to finance our plans (hopefully) in a much more sustainable way. Me as a farmer will never be the same kind of farmer my step-father was, but the farming I will do be it ever so humble and small will surely honor that life that I once lived as a farmer’s daughter.