Thursday, April 21, 2011

this is not a hobby

I am starting to cringe every time I hear the phrase Hobby Farm. I just hate the assumptions that surround the word, circling it like confused sharks. The idea that your backyard farm or small rural acreage is equivalent to your Tuesday night bowling team or bird-watching club really gets me. It is so much more.

Regardless of scale, growing food is a skill and a blessing. It is a timeless and honorable job that can do nothing but benefit the practitioner. This is true on every level: literally, socially, physically, emotionally. The work of raising animals, grains, fruits, eggs, fungi, fish and vegetables for your table is above the spinning classes and golf clubs. It is creating the source of your existence. It is learning to produce the energy to keep you alive.

There also seems to be a Caste system here in upstate New York. A different social ranking between the people who live and work full-time on their land and those of us who shuffle off to our off-farm jobs every day. The stigma is that those of us who need to earn a living off the land to supplement our farm are either:

A) bad at a farming and need financial help, or
B) Doing it for fun and therefore, not serious. (aka Tuesday night wings and pins.)

Calling people who grow food part-time Hobby Farmers is like calling people in the National Guard Hobby Soldiers. Most people would never dream to peg the people who might give their lives to protect their country such an aloof term (even if they are part-timers) because the stakes are too high. Well, when it comes to creating food, I feel the same way. And while the accountant down the street with the two-acre dairy goat and vegetable operation hasn't quit his day job: he still is providing food for your community. He deserves a higher title than Hobby. He is a farmer, end of story. He may be other things as well, but if he is making cheese and squash, he is learning a skill and providing a product to help keep all of us alive.

The soldier might die for us, but the farmer lives for us.

I have sweat buckets and tore muscles. I have walked through snowstorms and heat waves. I have been rammed by sheep, bit by turkeys, and poisoned by ivy. I drive a truck and I own a gun. I am these things, and not because they are a simple pastimes but because not doing them makes my life feel like a fabrication, some sort of stage play. An act where I go through the motions of being a human animal while the stagehands behind the scenes pull the ropes and press the levers. But I don't want to be in the show anymore, I want to know how things work, and be a source instead of a consumer. I want to know what's behind the curtain.

So those of us with part-time farms, people who subscribe (as I do) to Hobby Farm magazine and grow food even though it's not our full time job...we need to either change our title or own it in a new way. Because, this is not my hobby, darling. This is not a phase. This is not a trend, or a marketing ploy, or a subscription to a magazine. This is growing food.

This is my entire life.

disclaimer: I am not saying people who use the word hobby farm without issue, or books and magazines that use it, are wrong. I am saying that I think the effort and energy of the work has outgrown the term. I do not care if people call Cold Antler "Hobby", it's not their opinions I care about, but what I do care about is that something as important as growing food at home is seen as an afterthought or cute lifestyle choice unless it is on a larger scale.

67 Comments:

Blogger frakier said...

I'm with you, if I had any other "hobby" that took up this much of my time someone would probably stage and intervention.
And I'm just doing some of the square foot gardening stuff.

April 21, 2011 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Your flood of language is delicious. VERY. WELL. SAID.!!

April 21, 2011 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thank you! In an attempt to describe my 450 sq. ft. garden and 3 (soon to be 6) hens and other self sufficient ways of doing things I recently resorted to the term hobby farm but it doesn't sit well with me. I spent 6 hours today on my "hobby". I've been known to spend 6 hours on my rug braiding but that I feel is a hobby. Tending to living things is so much more. I love the National Guard analogy! It immediately made me think of the volunteer firefighters I know. All are connected 24/7 and are ready to respond at a moments notice. They are certainly not hobby firefighters.

April 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

When asked one evening at my Bunco game (which is a hobby) what I've been doing to keep myself busy (since everyone there knows I'm unemployed) I mentioned that I'm growing a vegetable garden and hope to get chickens this year. "Oh yeah, that's the latest thing," was the reply. I bristled.

I've been aiming at teaching myself how to feed myself for years, to the point of moving three thousand miles away from where I was so that I'd have better luck at it. It may be 'the latest thing', but I don't think it's a fad. I think it's here to stay.

It is with me anyway.

April 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I really need a button, an "I vehemently agree" button.

April 21, 2011 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Meh. Who cares what people say or what they want to call it? I'm happy and I'm staying (mostly) out of the grocery stores, which is my goal. Hobby farm, lunacy, mid-life crisis, I've heard it all, but only from work colleagues. I've been treated very kindly and seriously by the full-time farmers I've met, and the guys at the local feed and grain place that supplies in bulk to the huge dairy farms have been happy to answer my questions about feed for my livestock without talking down to me. Only people like you know how hard it is to juggle the job and the farm, and also the joy and sense of peace and rightness that go along with it. Hobby Schmobby, whatever.

April 21, 2011 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger WeekendFarmer said...

J - If you have a weak section of the fence...you can tie pieces of wood/logs (something you will chop down as firewood) and tie it to the bottom of the fence. They will not be able to lift it up. Find something that is heavy. Good luck. I tried and it helped keep my flock away from the neighbors clover field.

-wf

April 21, 2011 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Aila said...

I can definitely relate to your feelings about this, quite frankly I'm tired of people laughing at my "weird quirks" of keeping chickens and such. Personally I think it's weird to not know where your food comes from, or to enjoy being in on the production itself. It's going to take blog posts like this to start changing the general attitude, and people who are willing to stand up and own their "hobbies."

Just to clarify though, when you say "spinning classes" you're referring to a bike right? Cause my spinning classes involve a wheel and some wool. (^:

April 21, 2011 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I have allowed myself to call my back yard a farm for the first time ever. It seems to have hit me all at once. A real working farm. I am not playing at helping add to my ailing budget by growing my own food or knowing that it is fresh and healthy.

Rabbits and chickens that feed me. Dogs that work to feed me. A garden that is never big enough working to feed me. Me and my husband working to feed our family and animals.

Gosh darn it is a lot more work than a hobby...

April 21, 2011 at 11:26 PM  
OpenID urbanadaptation said...

It seems like there are a lot of ways to talk down to people who want to go against the grain a bit and, god forbid, do things for themselves. I know people who think some of what I did is unusual at best, and I've gotten pretty good at ignoring a lot of it, but it does rub me the wrong way sometimes, especially given how important these things are.

April 21, 2011 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Kootenay said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2011 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Mamawolf said...

I've been hesitating to call what I do homesteading for years now due to the fact that I also hold down an off the land J-O-B. But, every spare second that is not working in the lab or homeschooling is spent working the land, and working hard. I am living off my land... it feeds me and a handful of other folks. Time to own it! Thanks for your words.

April 22, 2011 at 2:06 AM  
Blogger Teresa H. @ Oak Tree Farm said...

I have a one-way, one hour commute to my very unrewarding, daily off-farm job (it pays the bills). A little over a year ago, I got a new boss, who, in talking about my farm, once said "she too has had many hobbies over the years." I work in a professional environment where image is everything and have never quite fit their mold (botox, spa dates, professional manicures, high-end clothes, conspicuous consumption, spray-on tans, etc.) -- all of which I find quite foolish - give me working hands, a pair of jeans & muddy wellies any day. It doesn't matter anymore what others think about our farming endeavors -- like yourself and your bloggers, we are well aware of the hard work and enormous value this life affords. And, I would not have it any other way (except that I wish I could figure out how to make this my full time job & I certainly keep working toward that goal). There is nothing I would love better than to walk out my front door and be at work. Teresa~

April 22, 2011 at 4:08 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

Curiously enough this has been a topic of conversation round here this week lol!
A dear person welcomed me as hullo here comes Farmer One Cow, I visably bristled! and barked whats that supposed to mean, but the person was genuinely shocked and worried they had upset me! They explained thats just what they(full time farmers) call people that have livestock but dont do solely that. Even folks with flocks of 100 or herds of 50 cattle are refered to as Farmer One Cow if they do something else as well as the farm.

I could see then it was a term of endearment and now it makes me smile, I have already rung someone and cheerily said yes its me Farmer One Cow {grin}

Its not meant as a derogatory term in anyway, neither I suspect is hobby farmer, just simply *words*

As long as we know what we do, how hard we work, how devoted we are, then like most things in life,the label really doesnt have to matter
GTM x x x x

April 22, 2011 at 4:57 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I think this is my favorite post yet! You hit the nail right on the head. I think it comes down to the prevailing all-or-nothing attitude. If you run, it doesn't count unless you run marathons. If you have a garden and animals, you're not a "real" farmer unless you have hundreds of acres and farm full-time. People have forgotten that almost everyone used to have a few chickens, a garden, and maybe a bee hive or two out back whether or not your "out back" backed up to a suburban neighbor's fence or looked out over acres of your own land. Regardless of the label, if you are working to take care of yourself in as intimate a way as feeding yourself, you are doing something very important. Indeed, something that could save you life. Try saying that about bowling!

April 22, 2011 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I refer to my place as a "farmette".
I have 20 or so laying hens whose eggs pay for their food and give me some to eat. I raise a couple of turkeys for the holidays and 15 or so meat chickens. I have meat rabbits that I show, sell, and eat. I have a 1250 sq ft garden that does a nice job filling my freezer. This endeavor exists because I want to raise most of my food and I enjoy all that it entails. I really don't care if I am called a hobbyist, homesteader, or farmetter. This is not about what others think but about my personnel satisfaction a being able to avoid all the ills of the modern food system.

April 22, 2011 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

And by the way, years ago National Guardmen referred to themselves as weekend warriors. That was in the time when 2 weeks at Camp Drum and being called to natural disasters well before overseas deployments.

April 22, 2011 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger Burk said...

Wow, how do you really feel? I love that you always pull back the skin and tell a truth. Preach it sister

April 22, 2011 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I agree that "hobby" gives it the ring of a passtime that can be put aside whenever one is tired of it. What you and so many of your readers are doing is so much more than that. I say, let the term "hobby farmer" be reserved for those who can afford to hire help for those times farming just gets in the way of their other lifestyle.

April 22, 2011 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

It's not your hobby, and believe it or not, it's not your life. YOU are your life. You need to ignore labels and do what you makes you happy.

April 22, 2011 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Two thoughts--around here, most farmers have always had either a part-time job or a spouse who worked off the farm.

And I can see where derision for newbies comes from. I cringe whenever there's a news story about some former city-type who has discovered the "simple" life--and can pay for it with more money than I can imagine ever having. I may be biased because I'm old enough to remember the last back to the land movement in the 70's, how many of those folks stuck it out?
That being said, I admire and root for anyone from anywhere of any age who truly loves country life and is trying to make a difference with their farms, hobby or not.

April 22, 2011 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Hello Jenna - I'm the co-author of The Joy of Hobby Farming. My wife and I have a 23-acre farm in Virginia and grow cut flowers, veggies, eggs, and mushrooms, as well as raise some chickens, llamas and donkeys. My off-farm job is in publishing and a few years back I worked for Storey and sold your book Made From Scratch to all the independent bookstores throughout the Mid-Atlantic area. We were approached to do The joy of Hobby Farming by the publisher, and similarly, we had real problems at first with the term "hobby." But you know what? We learned to own it. After watching the "real" farmers exhaust their physical and economic resources in a food economy that's broken, we realized that only hobby farmers, with off-farm income, can help reclaim the small farm lifestyle. As I'm sure you're aware, living only on the money you produce from the farm is nearly impossible. I think you'll find that a vast majority of "real" farmers either do have some off-farm income or they inherited their land and don't have the usual expenses of those of us trying to reclaim the land for a higher purpose. I also found that it was really my own insecurity that made me cringe when I heard the term. Now that I've published a book with it in the title, I see now that there are millions of people that truly long to call themselves the same thing. Worrying about it yourself only perpetuates that false hierarchy that you talk about. So own it, be proud of it and who really gives a damn what other insecure farmers think? It's only your chickens' opinion that matters anyway, right? -Michael Levatino

April 22, 2011 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2011 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

As someone who has devoted the last 6 years returning my backyard to an urban "micro farm" and trying to return to the simple life, I thank you for raising this issue. It's not a hobby, it's another job! It's the job that I have that does give me time off, but it's just a few months in the winter when I'm planning my next year's garden! However, I must add that frequently it's good to have that everyday office job. I like a tiny bit of security and it helps put both worlds into perspective.

There's nothing HOBBY about raising enough vegetables that you don't have to buy them all winter long because you preserved enough to get you through the winter!

April 22, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2011 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I did not intend to offend!

April 22, 2011 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

I always hesitate to answer when someone asks me what I do. My husband is a truck driver. I have worked on and off throughout the 32 years we have been married., when I've needed to to help out. We raised 2 daughters. I have not "worked" in 8 years now. I am a farmer. I have to get used to saying that. I have done market gardens. I have dairy goats. I sell the milk and make soap to sell. I have turkeys that will be hatching poults soon. They will be sold. I sell chicken eggs. I will be raising lamb for meat and for wool soon. So I think I can honestly say I am a farmer. There. I said it. And I will from now on. Thanks for a great post.

April 22, 2011 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Bean said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2011 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

I straddle the fence on this topic. I live on a full-time working organic dairy farm. I also have my little Hobby Farm on the side with my chickens, goats, whatever-else-I-decide-to-get-into. We have a real problem around here with Hobby Farmers buying up high-demand farm land in 20 acre parcels but don't make any sort of income off that land. It's just their personal playground. I don't have a problem with Hobby Farmers, I think everyone should have at least a garden and a few chickens (that's just MHO). But I am still skeptical of those who "wanna do the farm thing" so they raise pygmy goats and pot-bellied pigs.

April 22, 2011 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

What "ted" said. (Well said BTW, "ted.") And Jenna remember that nearly all writers have to have day jobs, too. Both of your passions - farming and writing - are sustained by your dedication to your day job. That is honorable.

April 22, 2011 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I added a disclaimer to the post, because i think it upset some people.

It's the attitude towards the "hobby farmer" that irks me. The idea that growing food at home is a cute pasttime instead of the important skill I believe it is.

I work an off-farm, off-laptop job as many writers and farmers do. I don't think farmers need to work full time or part time to be considered farmers, but the fact here is a lot of people feel that way.

I was trying to say the effort justifies your title as farmer, and that if we want to keep the term hobby farmer for those of us who can't do this full time, we should scrap it, or own it, As Ted suggested.

I hope I did not offend people.

April 22, 2011 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Aila said...

I'm most certainly not offended, and other than the fact that I notice some deleted comments... I think the general vibe is that of support and interesting conversation. This is a topic that we need to be talking about in general and you just got the conversation rolling. You made a valid comment on the all-or-nothing approach to labels, now people need to think for themselves and figure out if they are okay with owning the title "hobby" or if it's more important to them to try and change that label. That choice will be different for everyone, but that's on them and not your "fault." Personally I haven't made that choice yet, and am enjoying reading the arguments for why people do or don't embrace the title "hobby."

I envy that you can write a blog post that gets people talking (even if it's more riled up talking for some), that means you're doing something right. So kudos!

April 22, 2011 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Victoria Strauser said...

Hear hear Jenna! I think people tend to minimalize anything that they don't have the courage to do themselves. I think seeing others become more self-sufficient is a little threatening to people who rely on industrialized food systems - it brings into question their food choices.

I'm so happy to have found your blog. In fact, I ordered both of your books last night, and I featured you on my blog today.

Keep strong, Keep farming!

April 22, 2011 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Jenna ,
This is from an antique china mug. It is a farmer's prayer.

"In God is our trust, the Farmer's Arm's : Let the wealthy and great roll in splendor and state,I envy them not I declare it. I eat my own lamb, my chickens and ham. I shear my own fleece and I wear it. I have lawns, I have Bow'rs, I have fruit , I have flow'rs, The lark is my morning alarmer. So jolly boys now, Here's God speed the plough. Long life and success to the farmer."

sounds like you, I see no mention of anything "hobby " on the mug ...... just plain Farmer .

TinaH

April 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Jenna ,
This is from an antique china mug. It is a farmer's prayer.

"In God is our trust, the Farmer's Arm's : Let the wealthy and great roll in splendor and state,I envy them not I declare it. I eat my own lamb, my chickens and ham. I shear my own fleece and I wear it. I have lawns, I have Bow'rs, I have fruit , I have flow'rs, The lark is my morning alarmer. So jolly boys now, Here's God speed the plough. Long life and success to the farmer."

sounds like you, I see no mention of anything "hobby " on the mug ...... just plain Farmer .

TinaH

April 22, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger becky3086 said...

Humm, I have never thought of what to call it. I tell people that I "go to work" and then when I'm home I "go to work". To me they are just two separate jobs. It may be a hobby but it is not like my reading hobby. When I garden there is a purpose-food, when I raise meat birds-more food, when I make baskets-containers/storage, when I make clothes-umm clothes. They are all just jobs etc. When I read that is just for entertaining myself, it normally doesn't produce useful things (though it may lead to another "hobby" which may produce useful things, lol)>

April 22, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Funny, I would have thought there was a choice "c" - that a day job might not provide enough income to cover expenses and farming (on whatever scale) can help cover the difference. If I were ever to get serious about raising food - and right now I am only just starting to grow some tomatoes on my porch - it would be so I could scale back on my day job, either work fewer hours or work at something less stressful/lower pay.

April 22, 2011 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

Thanks Jenna. Somebody needed to say it. In my neck of the woods real farmers have 3000 acres and survive on grain subsidy payments because it costs more to grow some crops than the price you get from Cargill. I have between a quarter and a third of an acre from which I supply a CSA for 5 months of the year. Right now I have 7 clients for the season that starts mid-May and I have a few more shares left. So that's 7 families plus mine that consume fruits and veggies from my efforts. Farmers around here like to laugh at what I do but I'd like to see their acreage be half as productive as mine. As you get your enterprise going keep sales and production records, take a moment to a little extra math and see how much your land produces. I'll bet it puts a commercial farmer to shame.

April 22, 2011 at 10:45 AM  
OpenID localnourishment.com said...

IMHO, "Hobby" is a word that should be used only by the hobbyist. Anyone on the outside looking in should never use that word! Whether it is meant derogatorily or not is beside the point entirely. I don't raise children, homeschool and blog as a hobby. True, it doesn't pay, but it's more than a hobby, it's an avocation.

April 22, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger yarrow said...

right on, Jenna! just because i can't afford to quit my day job does not mean that this farm is anything other than my passion and my life's work!


being four middle-class white kids ourselves, like so many new-generation farmers, we have struggled a bit with "impostor syndrome," that sensation that you're not "for real;" struggling for credibility as you learn the hard way how to do what it is that you are doing. but we're for real, and so are you, and so's your goat-farming neighbor. it doesn't really get more real than plunging your hands up to the elbow in fresh turned soil, growing food that people eat -- let alone killing it yourself. that's more real than most people can handle!

April 22, 2011 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Hound Doggy said...

I agree.
But....I do know people with Hobby Farms.

Yours is not a hobby farm.

In my opinion the difference is not size or on-land or off-land majority income. It is attitude. It is lifestyle. It is soul.
When everyone stops judging each other and using words to look down on others.....we will be a lot further ahead. :)

April 22, 2011 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

i hadn't considered that some would find the term hobby farm offensive but can see how people might translate it to meaning their actions or activities are less serious or important than they truly are.

i looked up the definition of hobby on dictionary.com which provided this:

–noun, plural -bies.
1. an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation: Her hobbies include stamp-collecting and woodcarving.

based on the definition is appears this term might well be worth embracing. gardening is relaxing, tending chickens is pleasurable etc. and all can be done outside of a normal workday.

perhaps its a selling point to those who feel they might not have the time/money/knowledge to raise their own food, flowers, or fiber. our culture has a serious disconnect from growing/raising food and i feel it stems from people thinking unless one is a "farmer" its unrealistic or simply not achievable. anyone can farm and introducing these skills and experiences as a hobby might be something more people identify with. farmers farm, but so do teachers, nurses, studends, and bartenders.

with the correct set of skills and resources, all which can be learned, farming can indeed be as simple as stamp collecting.

April 22, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

i'm not a fan of the term "hobby farming" and I'm not sure that I would want to embrace it. Farming, even on a small scale is work. Juggling it with a full-time job or even other life responsibilities - like kids - is REALLY hard work. I have many many hobbies, none have even come close to being as frustrating, exhausting, or rewarding as this farming schtick.

April 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Amigo van Helical said...

Jenna,

No one with two neurons and a synapse to connect them would consider what you do as a "hobby farm," Jenna.

I recall back when I was in college in a small town. I rented a house from a farmer. His brother was a farmer. Their father was a farmer. Both brothers worked day jobs because they and their families couldn't survive on what their farms brought in. They had a beat-up old, cinderblock house they rented out, and that brought in a little cash too.

Did that make them "hobby landlords?"

To have labeled those enterprises as hobby "anything" would not only have been shallow and stupid, it would have been physically risky. These were tough, hard-working folks.

They were folks like you.

Carry on

April 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger ted said...

From The Joy of Hobby Farming...

Hobby Farmers...
-Purchase and protect land from development.
-Dramatically increase the diversity of local products at farmer's markets, providing more choice for local consumers.
-Buy many of their supplies locally, create local products and sell those products to local people. This generates several layers...of local tax revenue.
-Protect beneficial wildlife, especially bees.
-Rebuild soil and pasture that's been depleted by traditional farming methods...
-Support local communities beyond traditional economic models by trading goods and services.
-Act like carbon offsets by funneling off-farm income from less-sustainable enterprises to more organic and sustainable on-farm enterprises.
-Offer a way for businesses to use workers more wisely, allowing...the worker another way to supplement his or her income to make non-traditional work sustainable.

Hobby Farmers Unite!

April 22, 2011 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Tealah said...

You know, I've never really thought about how I feel about the term "hobby farmer". That's one of the things about your blog that really attracted me here, Jenna, was your ability to write thought-provoking posts. (Not to say I don't just like hearing about the sheep, the chooks, the dogs and your day, because I do, haha)

I think, after some time, that I agree with the person who said the difference between farming and hobby farming is attitude. You with the small garden and the chooks, do you consider yourself a farmer? Yes? Then you are! You don't have to get subsidies from the government to be a "real" farmer.

I believe everyone's personal feelings about what is farming are going to be different. I believe that the labels are unnecessary to continue your life, but if you feel strongly about not being labeled as something (ie, hobby farmer) than you by damn have the right to stand tall and say that.

Be proud, and know it in your heart, "I am a farmer" and no one with their labels can take that away.

Ok, rant over. ;)

April 22, 2011 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I refer to what we do as "homesteading" (which of course carries its own connotations), mainly because it's more than just veggies and livestock. It's all the other adjunct activities that come with providing for oneself. We do have "hobby farmers" around here - they're the folks with money that wanted a nice rural place to escape to, so they hire people to work it and never do any of the work on their own land. It's either a vacation home or an investment to them. Not the same thing at all. Those of us who do this to feed ourselves = not a hobby. It's simply what we feel like we must do. On that note, I'm off to do some hobby laundry.

April 22, 2011 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

I've never thought of Hobby Farming as derogatory, but do see how some people could say it in a way like, 'Oh, you're just a Hobby Farmer.' It's the same as when people tell me, 'Oh, you're just a housewife.' Sure, it's irksome, but instead of getting offended, I just laugh it off because I can't get non-ag people to comprehend what goes into our lifestyle of my husband working for the National Guard to pay the bills, but then comes home and works on the farm while I'm starting my own goat milk soap business, helping on the dairy when I can, and chasing two little boys around the farm.
It's all in how you present yourself, and soon enough, people will view you as you really are.

April 22, 2011 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Jo Griffith, Len Smith said...

Amen, Sista!

April 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Lenni said...

You said that with such eloquence. My only issue, on behalf of my Grandpa, is that for him golf was not a hobby. I know you used bowling as the example but I think golf might be an equivalent and it is from my own experience. He was both a farmer and a golfer. He felt God in both those places. This is not to belittle your blood, sweat and tore muscles. But for some, it would belittle golf for them, by putting it in the once-a-week- isn't-this-a-great-past-time category. He really was consumed by golf and that once a week was not enough.

April 22, 2011 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

@ted:

"...I think you'll find that a vast majority of "real" farmers either do have some off-farm income or they inherited their land and don't have the usual expenses of those of us trying to reclaim the land for a higher purpose."

I guess I'd like to know what "higher purpose" you are talking about? I grew up on a "real farm" and my dad worked "real hard" to support us. What higher purpose is there than that?

As far as expenses, my father had to pay rent (part of the crop) to his mother and an uncle, as they had a share in the land. My mother eventually got an off-farm job, as we all know how farming is now... only corporate farms, it seems, make it. "Get big or get out" was the mantra back in the 70s when mom went to work... Dad finally had to sell the farm.

April 22, 2011 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Teresa H. @ Oak Tree Farm said...

Oh, my goodness. I'm sorry to hear that anyone might have been offended by your post. I only felt it was a good, thought-provoking point of view about what many of us have either experienced or considered on our own. But, I have been both amazed and fascinated by all the interesting and varied responses. I love that this dialogue happened -- it has given me many other ways to think about this situation. So thanks, Jenna, for starting the conversation.

April 22, 2011 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Cassandra said...

"But I don't want to be in the show anymore, I want to know how things work, and be a source instead of a consumer. I want to know what's behind the curtain. "

I love this. LOVE it. Thank you.

April 22, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I agree, though I do like to make the distinction between a Homestead and a Farm. I feel like the difference amounts to scale and proportion of the land dedicated to self-sufficiency versus production. Homestead also has a much more serious ring to it.

April 22, 2011 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Irma said...

Isn't it funny how labels stick, I was thinking about this just yesterday. So here are my personal definitions, feel free to disagree:

GARDENER: Eats "several" to "many" meals from their labour. A noble, noble thing.

HOMESTEADER: Aspires to eat most of their meals from their labour. (Plus, you know, create wool!)

FARMER: Aspires to eat most of their meals from their labour, PLUS feed others. ( Or provide them with wool, whatever.)

HOBBY FARMER: Someone with enough resources and land to be a homesteader or farmer, but somehow chooses to be a Gardener. (Let's be clear, I am a Gardener, so I am not slagging my own people....but dude? If I had the space? I'd be a Homesteader.)

April 23, 2011 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

I get what your feeling that look or roll of the eyes like CAF is just a phase you're going through and given time you'll get over it. It's the same look I get from my own husband everytime I bring up my desire to move back east and buy a homestead. He thinks it's just a mid-life crises or something. It really jerks my chain. My knitting and cross-stitching are hobbies. If I put them in a basket and leave them for period of time, when I finally come back to them they are no worse for wear. I bet Sal wouldn't be such a good natured fellow if you left him to fend for himself for three months, and I bet he wouldn't be where you left him either. I wouldn't worry about offending someone or not, I think it's a great example of how words in the English language as spoken in America can have different connotations for different folks.

April 23, 2011 at 12:56 AM  
Blogger ward said...

Yo, Jenna,

I am confident that the THREE families that buy food from us every week think of us as farmers. As far as I'm concerned, that is all that matters. My reach as a "farmer" is limited but it reaches beyond our own dinner table and into the homes, kitchens, and bellies of others. That is all that matters to me.

The guys on their combines, with their commodities and chemicals, and the ranchers and breeders with their dualies can judge, and distinguish, and "hate"; the account, the teacher, and you all know what they (you, we, us) are. As these older "real farmers" disappear, there is a new generation of farmers in the incubator, the brooder if you like, learning to do it differently and these (us) will emerge as the generators of a new food system.

Its not our fault that the economic system makes it difficult to do this full time, but that will change.

Peace,
ward

April 23, 2011 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

I have this same issue except people don't even consider what we have a "farm". It's a hobby. It's *my* hobby (not my 5 kids or husbands). I get the cutsie "Oh look, Crystal has eggs" but there is no support from family really. I basically had to beg for our mother's to like our facebook page and none of the rest of our family will do it. They don't see what I do as a passion or a way of life. They don't understand that I am -in my own small way- trying to provide for my family and my friends and hopefully the community. They don't see that this is a job and a worthwhile venture because it isn't attached to a corporate check and a diploma.

Its frustrating and angering.

Oh and,
My husband is in the National Guard and I'm a Hobby Farmer.

April 23, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

I'd just like to point out that ANY time you paint with a broad brush (i.e., GENERALIZE) about people, it's guaranteed not to provide a true descriptor of the individuals that make up whatever group you are talking about. There are ALL KINDS of people in all kinds of professions. Just because they are working in a profession, does NOT mean they always think the same. Most probably, you'll get all different kinds of philosophies, circumstances and outlooks, no matter that they have but ONE thing in common: their profession.

Be careful when you generalize about people. I hardly ever find it accurate or very useful.

April 23, 2011 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Simpson said...

I view a hobby as something you can put down for six months if you get busy and come back to when you have time. No so with farming. Life (yours and others) depends on it.

April 23, 2011 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Wow, Ward...

"The guys on their combines, with their commodities and chemicals, and the ranchers and breeders with their dualies can judge, and distinguish, and "hate"...

What are YOU doing toward those people? Sounds pretty judgmental to me.

Just because a farmer has a combine doesn't make him evil, judgmental or hateful.

My father had a family farm (NOT a corporation!) and we owned a combine. He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest soul you'd ever like to meet.

April 23, 2011 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Backwoods Woman said...

Thank you and Amen!!!!! Tis not a hobby at all but who we are, how we define ourselves, and what we are passing on and will be remembered by. It is a way of life. A very good life.

April 23, 2011 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger ward said...

@beccaWA

I'm sorry you read my comments as judgmental. They were not intended as such.

I was only pointing out that the people that bought into the "get big or get out" mentality might not appreciate the folks that are digging the earth in a different manner than themselves. Maybe they are not the only farmers that dismiss the small or part time farmer as a hobbyist. I don't know. On the other hand . . .

Peace,
ward

April 25, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

On the one hand, a farmer is a farmer. On the other hand, sometimes it can be important to differentiate subsets of a field (organic, livestock, vegetable, grain, etc.). Personally, I'm fond of the term "Market Gardener" for what I'd like to be doing, as I suspect to start with that livestock won't be part of the equation. Maybe "Market Farmer" would be a good one for what you do :)

April 25, 2011 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Country-lovin' said...

Definitely not a hobby. Gardening, raising chickens...it's an all day event. Now living in the city (on a 1/4 acre lot) my husband and I have begun making the most of our property. Last year it was container gardens. This year it's solar panels on our home, harvesting rain water, some container gardening on the deck, and two new areas that are approx. 250 sq ft. each. And now 8 new chickens this year as well (next year we plan on getting a turkey). Although I enjoy it all as much as I would a hobby, it is hardly a hobby. It is a commitment of labor and love. A hobby you can choose to participate in, gardening and raising animals for food requires tasks that you have to tend to daily....which once again...does not classify as a hobby. Now sewing and quilting...that's my hobby !!

May 4, 2011 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Country-lovin' said...

Definitely not a hobby. Gardening, raising chickens...it's an all day event. Now living in the city (on a 1/4 acre lot) my husband and I have begun making the most of our property. Last year it was container gardens. This year it's solar panels on our home, harvesting rain water, some container gardening on the deck, and two new areas that are approx. 250 sq ft. each. And now 8 new chickens this year as well (next year we plan on getting a turkey). Although I enjoy it all as much as I would a hobby, it is hardly a hobby. It is a commitment of labor and love. A hobby you can choose to participate in, gardening and raising animals for food requires tasks that you have to tend to daily....which once again...does not classify as a hobby. Now sewing and quilting...that's my hobby !!

May 4, 2011 at 12:43 PM  

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