Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re getting a hobby farm in our neighborhood. (If you haven’t read my article about hobby farming, you definitely should.)
Already the media fanfare has started! Check out this article in our local “newspaper“:
|Click to enlarge if you *really* want to read it all.|
So we have the typical situation. Couple of people living in the city manage to grow a couple pepper plants, perhaps a couple tomatoes. And guess what — they didn’t have to use any pesticides or fertilizers do it!
They sell the big expensive downtown flat and head to the country. They invest in a small farm and now they’re going to show all those old farm families how to do it right! All those other farmers in the area are too busy polluting the Earth and poisoning our food. They’re going to be “organic” and “natural.”
I’m sure Karen and Jody mean well. I mean, after all, they can’t possibly realize that by promoting organic produce, they’re promoting an agricultural system that would only produce 2/3 the amount of food we produce now, which means that a whole lot of people would starve. Who cares about starving people when you can live a morally superior life while you show the old hillbillies how to do it?
I’d also like to point out that Karen and Jody are not certified organic yet. While I have no doubt they will get the certification, they really can’t claim they’re selling “organic” produce. You actually aren’t allowed to call yourself organic, market yourself as organic, or label your produce as such until you’re certified. Oops. Better figure that regulation stuff out pretty quickly, we deal with a lot of it in agriculture.
Besides all of that, how nice would it be if your farm had a cash infusion of $24,000? Sorry, but that’s not how this whole thing works. Eventually, you have to make it on your own. Your farm has be economically sustainable (read: profits!) if you’re actually going to make the farm work long term. Feeling morally superior won’t pay the bills.
Although I certainly don’t wish anything bad on anyone, the whole thing has me incredibly skeptical. The article above reads precisely like a manual on hobby farms. Moving to a location that already has a bunch of roadside stands, apple presses, ciders mills? Maybe not the right move.
You want to sell organic? Good for you.
Want to move from the city with absolutely no experience in agriculture and make a go of it? Good for you.
But eventually the money will run out, the grants will go away, the media fanfare will die, you’ll realize it’s hard work, you’re going to be over regulated, and maybe those guys down the street knew what they were doing when they told you it was a business. Playing around on 10 little acres might not be enough to make it through the winter.
That’s when it really counts.
That’s when you realize that the people farming around you know a little bit about what they’re doing, because they’ve been doing it their entire lives. They aren’t a bunch of uneducated, unsophisticated nobodies that are being played by big seed and chemical companies. They’re business people and you’ll have to figure out how to keep up.
Otherwise, you’re still just playing in the dirt.
This is a good post, and I agree with most of your “hobby farm” post as well. However, please do not lump all small farms into the same category. Some of us may look like we fit this model at first glance…but, that’s one group I really do NOT want to be part of (and I know I am not alone!). Life events conspired so that we ended up starting from scratch (literally) a number of years ago. We knew how to grow food (of all sorts) and provide for ourselves. Our farm business grew out of our desperate need for some kind of financial stability for our young family.We sell our farm products at the Farmers’ Market, and have done so for the past 16 seasons. Our little bit of earth has provided for us and our daughters (until they married). We’ve never taken grant money, never spoken ill about the “big ag” neighbors and made it a priority to be friendly and neighborly. We have absolutely NO thoughts that we are right or best in our practices; we are just making the best of what life has to offer.The young, hip, “urban” farmers who have access to large amounts of land, employees, grants and seemingly endless cash bug me. They want to bad-mouth the establishment that has fed and clothed us all for years, while making a buck (or many) off the “city“ folks who believe all the rhetoric spouted by the alternative ag leaders.If nothing else, now I understand why it was so difficult to get to feel like we were part of the community. I guess we looked like the “interlopers” that were out to change the world, or maybe just some people “playing in the dirt”. Sure glad that our neighbors took the time to find out that wasn’t the case.I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog.Thanks for listening. Barbara <a href="http://www.homesteadhillfarm.comwww.homesteadhillfarm.com<br />
Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your story! I absolutely would not lump your family into a "hobby farm." Quite the opposite, it seems like you and your family definitely took this as a business, not just some way to show everyone else how much better you are!! We definitely need younger/new farmers if we're going to keep production up. I certainly do not want to discourage anyone from getting involved! My family is similar to yours, I believe. I'm a fourth generation on the farm. My great-grandpa and grandpa bought a few acres of land and got started. They only had a few fruit trees. My dad took over after them. We also had a farm market for 26 years (changing now due to labor/regulations/economy). The farm has certainly evolved over those years!! But everyone has to start somewhere and I can certainly appreciate that. I could certainly tell you stories about the changes we made, the skeptics (even in the family!), and that it is definitely a learning process.I do think that those in the farm community need to support one another (even though sometimes all we see is competition) and I'm glad that it sounds as though you eventually found that as well. My family has been very involved in our local Farm Bureau, which I think is one excellent way of meeting our farm neighbors and having an impact.My point with "hobby farmers" is specifically the people that come out from the city, cash in hand, and think they're going to show us all how wrong we are. They're going to live a "morally" superior lifestyle. If someone wants to get involved in farming, especially if they have absolutely no experience, my advice would be to work with and learn from a farmer. Don't act like you're going to change the game without even knowing all the pieces. You have to be willing to ask for help and learn. From looking at your blog and reading your comment, I hardly doubt the "hobby farm" approach was your attitude or outlook when you started out. Your blog is absolutely very well done, by the way!!Thanks for taking the time to share your comments and thoughts. 🙂