Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two Scenarios

Here are two scenarios of two different types of homesteaders. After reading them, consider them. I'm sharing them because I want to start a discussion here on what defines responsible preparation for a new farmer? Do you need to have your wits or your wallet in order to start farming? Do you need to take risks and accept the losses, or plan and prepare until you and your significant other and extended family are ready for a new lifestyle? These are two dramatic and vastly different scenarios, but both include passionate people who want to farm and are not ready yet.

Scenario 1:

Laura has always wanted a flock of sheep, she really has. She has spent a few weeks touring and probing around local sheep farms asking questions and helping with shearing, lambing, shots and bottle babies. She doesn't have a lot of money but she does have a library card and plenty of free time since losing her job four weeks ago. She was one of dozens laid off when her advertising firm was bought out by a larger firm. Being forced out of her day job made her reconsider what matters to her, and where her life should go next. She always wanted sheep, and decided she was going to become a shepherd. Come hell or high water, she would be spinning her own wool come next winter.

Laura doesn't have a lot of land, or any really. She's an apartment dweller in a small town. But she recently attended a LandShare meeting in her town hall, where wealthier landowners allow small farmers access to a few acres of their land in exchange for some of the farm's profit or a share of what the land produces. There Laura met a woman who runs a Bed and Breakfast a mile bike ride away from her town apartment. She has seven acres of fields and offered her four of them for a small flock of sheep. It benefitted them both, as the B&B owner gets some bucolic critters outside the window and the farmer gets use of the land. Laura has kept this woman's number in her pocket every day for three weeks.

So one day, while helping with lambing at one of the largest sheep cheese farms in the county the farm owners are so pleased with Laura they offer her the gift of five ram lambs from their herd if she wants them, but she has to take them today. She is frothing at the mouth, but her mind is reeling. These aren't the wool sheep she wanted? These are dairy males, so pretty much lamb chops. Why take these sheep if they aren't part of her mental business plan. What if she says yes and the B&B owner changes her mind? And not to mention Laura doesn't even have a single fence up or out building put together. What to do?

Laura heads home from her farm apprenticing that morning with five ram lambs with full bellies on a blanket in the back seat. of her sedan.

She gets home and sets up a puppy gate in her kitchen her trusty Labrador Rocket used to need during potty training. One by One she carries the ram lambs into the kitchen while Rocket watches, golden tail wagging at the new house guests. She calls her dog back to the very sheepy-smelling car and they leave the little ones with a bowl of water. They peel out of the driveway for the local town's farm supply store.

There Laura buys a dozen t-posts, a post pounder, and some woven wire fencing. She buys two feeder rubber bins, nipples for soda bottles, milk replacer, and some castration rings and a bander tool. The total is around $400. It's a quarter of all the money she has in her checking account. She has no savings. On the drive home she calls the B&B owner, shaking. The woman she spoke with weeks ago remembered her, and was thrilled to have sheep but not until two weekends. She was hosting a May wedding and needed the place pristine for white tents and a band stand. She could come and set up her fencing and such anytime after that. Laura and her make a date to do this, and she lets out a long sigh.

So what happens to Laura and the five sheep in her kitchen? They live together in less-than-optimal circumstances in her apartment. It's far from perfect, but temporary. Every day of their two-week-to-pasture-wait Laura prepares for the big day. She has three friends coming to help run the small fenced enclosed and found a plan to make a simple A-frame shelter out of wooden pallets. Her friend Mark offered her a morning of power tools to help cobble it together. With a shelter, fence, grass, and a backpack full of bottles at the ready she is ready to go. She is on her way, and even in her smelly kitchen a bonefied shepherd.

Zoom to three years later and that first summer of milk-born wethers is long behind her. That first crop of apartment sheep was where she cut her teeth on fencing, nutrition, electric fences, pasture rotation, and marketing. She sold two and a half of the lambs in shares to friends and family and kept half of one for herself. A whole lamb went into the B&B freezer for payment of land use. A fifth lamb died of coccidia. It was a harsh lesson learned. She got a lot of flack from the farmer who gave her the lambs for letting it die. A lot of people around the area had bad things to say about her in general. Her family and friends are supportive but the lifestyle changes having livestock inflicted have caused a lot of conflict. Her life is far from perfect, but he is happy with the slow direction of it.

Now another two seasons have passed and the little fenced paddock is still there with some slightly improved animal housing and a flock of ten wool sheep, all pregnant and expecting in a few weeks. She sells wool, lamb, and works part time at the book store in town. She's not a full time farmer yet but well on her way, and no more lambs were loss to disease or mistakes since that first rough year.

Laura is, however humble, a farmer.

Scenario 2:

Stephen has always wanted sheep, always wanted to be a shepherd. He grew up reading books about the fells and dales of England, where his parents were raised and where he still carries a bit of their accent. He's got a good job, working for himself from home as an IT consultant. He doesn't mind the computer stuff but his passion, what gets him going, is farming. He wants to slip on a driving cap, get a border collie, and walk out to his flock with a crook in his hands.

Stephen is not one to do anything without planning though. Lots of planning. He has a bookshelf full of sheep care books and manuals. He has attended all his local Ag extensions classes. He has set aside thousands of dollars for supplies and gear. His backyard, which opens up to a fifty acre property he inherited from his uncle, is already fenced. His uncle used to keep a small flock of dairy goats and then cattle, and so the fencing is well ready for sheep. It's a bit overgrown, but a small army with weed whackers and some hoes could get it looking sharp.

What's holding Stephen back is his partner, Jessica. Jessica loves him and he loves her, but she just doesn't think their life is ready for livestock or a puppy. To her it's a commitment that means weekend trips to Montreal or last-minute adventures to camp in the mountains are gone. She loves animals but doesn't want to be so tied down to a farm or a dog. She has already told Stephen this, and that if it's what he really needs to be happy they need to have a longer conversation. Stephen, who hates any sort of long, controversial, conversation that may end up giving up on his flock idea - puts this conversation off constantly. He isn't ready, right? His life isn't where it needs to be.

So instead Stephen goes to watch sheepdog trials, save for his future farm, attend workshops and classes, and add to his growing library of dusty farm books. He researches breeders and looks up pedigrees. He can spot hoof rot from a dozen yards away. He has already picked out the sire and dam of his future puppy. All his friends are tired of hearing about sheep and farming. Jessica has gown so weary of it their relationship is in its last throes.

Shoot ahead to three years down the road and Stephen still does not have his flock of sheep. Jessica and him parted ways, but all the things she and his extended family said about livestock keep him away from lambing pens. He still has paintings of old shepherds and their dogs on the walls and even flew over to Scotland to watch some of the Big Hat trials post-breakup with his girl, but has yet to fix a fence or email a puppy breeder. He's just not ready yet, the support isn't there. If he gets sheep now he'll never have the time or energy to meet a woman if he's tied down to a farm. So perfectly prepared, wealthy, with land and fences to spare he keeps putting it off. Waiting for the perfect time when he is ready.

Stephen is not a farmer yet. Maybe next year.

70 Comments:

Blogger Laura said...

Gee, Jenna, those aren't lopsided examples at all.

March 26, 2013 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

They are supposed to be.

March 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Food for thought, for sure... Got this farmer thinking... Thanks. :)

March 26, 2013 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Nuno said...

I was a "Stephen" and my "Jessica" left in some pretty hard circumstances (my job also left me) and I was broke(n) and felt farther away from what I wanted in life more than ever.

In less than a year I've become a "Laura" and I'm now fencing and planting an orchard in a place that is on a (free) loan for 10 years within the same small town where I had built my old life.

With a friend at the local cooperative, we'll have our first 3 or 4 dozen baskets of fruit, eggs, vegetables and preserves ready for our very first customers in May.

I'm thinking of getting my own herd of local-breed goats for milk and meat, which I learned how to take care of as I worked for a few very hard but therapeutic post-breakup months.

I'm not worried about waiting for partnership to get some support in doing what I do - independence has its rewards. I wonder where I'll be in 10 years but with a feeling of curiosity where before I only worried.

March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

Now that Stephen is single, can I have his number?

March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

On the surface, it looks to me like Stephen is an "armchair" farmer. I really, really studied his situation and my thought is that if he really had the passion to be a farmer, he could have jumped in by now. his circumstances are so much less challenging than Laura's. The best thing for Stephen is to keep studying, reading, and dreaming until either the passion kicks in or he learns to be content with just learning about sheep.

As far as Laura goes - that girl has spunk and a big dose of "fools rush in". As for myself, I would probably have been a little more prepared financially and practically than Laura, but she knew what she wanted and was willing to take risks to get it. Bravo to her.

I'd rather meet ten Lauras than one Stephen. I'm reminded of: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

Again, this is just my personal opinion.

March 26, 2013 at 12:50 PM  
OpenID rawketstarling said...

Laura, I think the point Jenna was illustrating is that some people have the drive but not the means and still do what they can to make it work, whereas others have the means but not the gumption to just leap, so they'll always be stuck. This is a point she makes over & over again. I thought it was wonderfully done.

March 26, 2013 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger MIB said...

I think part of the issue here is what constitutes "preparation." In example one, the person didn't have many financial resources but did a lot of reading and working toward her goal and felt she could probably wrangle things when opportunity came her way. In example two, the person did the same reading and learning and saving, but not much hands-on work and did not take advantage of the resources he had for moving ahead.

To me, when you talk about preparation, it's more about educating yourself than having a lot of money. Money comes and goes, whether it's spent on sheep or DVDs or whatever (at least in my experience). But I wonder about people (and believe me, I've met them) who are well-intentioned and have money and fencing, etc., but have never talked to anyone about what you, you know, DO once you have the animals. We have less money and land than those people, but we're going into our fifth lambing season and we actually USE our animals.

So, if the question is wits or wallet, I guess my answer is wits...although a full wallet doesn't hurt!

March 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Normal Mom said...

Can we introduce the two of them???
Sheep matchmaker??

March 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Normal Mom said...

Can we introduce them??
Sheep matchmaker??

March 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger becky said...

I think you have to have a compromise rushing off and buying livestock with our knowing for sure if you have a place for them to live seems a bit irresponsible but over planning to the point where you never take that leap of faith isn't productive. I think you need a balance of planning, ambition, and faith with or with out the support of friends and family. You shouldn't let others keep you from your dreams

March 26, 2013 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

Aside from sharing a name, I am much more of a Stephen. I'm the type that never feels he can be prepared enough. I've been told this means I sometimes let opportunities pass by, I believe it also means I let potential mistakes pass me by as well. Obviously these aren't farming-specific scenarios, these are human philosophy exercises. And I appreciate your taking the time to write them, as I think anyone who reads will end up doing some soul searching. I personally would love to have sheep, but am not sure I could bear the pain of losing an animal under my care. I know there's a fine line between livestock and deadstock which is a line I'm not ready to walk. That's what I loved so much about your book "Made from Scratch", it coaxes the Stephens to try little forays into homesteading. And, of course, that you named your most annoying hen Ann Coulter. Still cracks me up.

March 26, 2013 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger sheila said...

Sounds like Steven should hook up with Laura.

March 26, 2013 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger greendria said...

Sorry if this is a re-post, I don't know if my first comment went through. I see parts of myself in both characters. And after I got done reading the post, I suddenly rememebered two separate times I really took risks, and both times paid off! Somehow I had filed those away in my memory and not made the connection til just now. It's interesting to me, since I am such a planner, and a lot (most!) of my "plans" don't work out, but here I am now recalling taking some pretty unplanned leaps of faith that worked out perfectly.

March 26, 2013 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger The Mom said...

I, and I would imagine many of us, are somewhere in the middle. I own a half duplex in suburbia. Neighbors all around. We have a 30x80 garden and 9 hens. It took me a bit to get here, but for me it's better to take it a little more slowly so that I don't get overwhelmed.

My plan is for more animals, some bees and to expand my perennial plantings of fruit trees and bushes. I end up with one foot in reality and the other in my dreams. It works for me.

March 26, 2013 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger nutter butter said...

What an individual is comfortable with or is comfortable being uncomfortable with is a very personal decision that includes more factors than one can imagine.
I think it’s important to remember, there’s not 1 solution to any given situation. With Stephens finances, a farm sitter is a simple fix for the couple on the go. Stephen could easily be not only a farmer but a family man and father.
As for Laura, if her apartment complex had caught wind of these lambs she might not only be asked to leave for violating a lease agreement but have to forfeit her deposit. Are 5 male lambs NOW worth it?

March 26, 2013 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

IMHO the difference is passion. Laura seems free spirited and enthusiastic. She's had a life changing circumstance to direct her path in life. She can pursue another job similar to the one she's had or she can take that fork in the road and go for what she really wants. Stephen, while interested in the concept, lacks the passion to make the dream a reality. He is content right where he is.

March 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Only pass this way once, Sooooooo got to go for your dreams. Or else you wake up when you are 70 and its too late!

March 26, 2013 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Regardless of life passion, there will never be a 'right time' to take on a change of course. The only right time is when you stand up and take the opportunity. Fear has no grip on gumption!

March 26, 2013 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I am definitely a 'Stephen!' I am currently planning, researching and saving for my little farm dream. Unlike Stephen, lets hope I can make that leap into reality!

However, if each of these scenarios were a book, which would you read? I think I would rather read about Laura's experience rather than Stephen's. Laura's story is risky and exciting and ends in success! While Stephen's story is quite sad.

March 26, 2013 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

We all have to figure out what works for us. There are so many variables in life. Kids, jobs, houses, partners. We may want to walk one path but have to convince others that it will work and cut ties to places too long rooted in. I know in my case, there are sooo many loose ends to tie up, it feels like it is taking forever. But a change is a coming. Its just a bit slow. I wouldn't fault "Stephen", change can really freak some people out. "Laura" has no kids or partner, so it's a lot eaiser to be free spirited when there is only your feelings/needs to be considered.

March 26, 2013 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger spk9093 said...

There are several alternate scenarios I could think of with these stories, some similar to what happened to you (“Laura’s neighbor and/or landlord realizes she is keeping 5 ram lambs in her apartment and calls the cops” or “Laura’s dog attacks and kills one of the animals”) and this seems like a really blatant attempt for you to have your readers chime in to justify how the path you took is the right one, but I’ll bite.
What defines responsible preparation for a new farmer?
Merriam-Webster defines a farmer as” a person who cultivates land or crops or raises animals”. Generally, in order to prepare for this I would say it would be wise and responsible to:
1. Learn about cultivating crops and/or animals
2. Make arrangements for where to keep said crops and/or animals and have a contingency plan if your current land use arrangement falls though (essential if you are keeping animals). This includes researching land use laws and having a signed contract outlining the expectations of both parties involved, the land owner and the land user.
3. Gather supplies you will need (seeds, tools, compost, shelter, fencing, etc.) or have a sure means (cash/barter/borrowing) to acquire them.
4. Be able to dependably care for the crops and/or animals for as long as you have responsibility for them (have reliable sources of veterinary care, animal feed, water, etc. and the money or barter to acquire them).
Jenna, oops, I mean Laura has been working with the animals she is interested in, so that satisfied #1. She has access to LandShare land and the B&B owner’s land so that satisfies #2 (although contracts and law research is not mentioned, nor is LandShare as a backup but I am assuming it). It is fuzzy on where she gets her supplies, particularly in the 3-5 years mentioned. After spending $400 she has $1200 in savings and no job. In three years she’s fenced the pasture, etc. Where did she get the money to do this as well as to pay for the apartment and for food and other necessities? I doubt she has been living off of $1200 for 3 years. When did she do these things—2.5 years ago or yesterday? In five years she’s selling some products of her farming and now she is working part time in a bookstore. Is that all the income she has? Nothing is mentioned about #4. If you don’t have a long term plan to feed and care for your animals that is irresponsible in my book so I hope she has a plan for this. Since she has continued to farm it is clear that she values farming over not having conflicts with her family and friends.
Stephen has fulfilled requirements 1, 2 and probably 3 and 4. At the beginning it seems that Stephen loves Jessica more than he wants to become a farmer. That is okay. After he breaks up with Jessica it seems he does not become a farmer because of what other people think and because having a relationship is of primary importance to him. To me the latter is fine. Also, the fact that he has waited this long also makes me wonder if the pictures, the books and the visits to the trials are enough for him. Sometimes what you think you want isn’t what will make you happy.
Ideally, Stephen (who has cash and land) meets Laura (who has experience) at a sheep trial, they get married and live happily ever after.

March 26, 2013 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

So I think we can all agree that a combination of these two people is what would be ideal. Someone with the preparation and resources of Stephen and the passion and risk taking of Lauren. At least, that is how I see it.

March 26, 2013 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I wrote the two sides because I get two types of emails from other farmers. They are either:

I can't believe we just did this?!!

or

I would love to live this life, but...


These characters are extreme. I see a lot of myself in Lauren, but her situation also scares the crap out of me. The things that could go wrong are endless, as many of you have pointed out. She could get kicked out, dog could eat lamb, and so on. In her case she got lucky and made a ridiculous impulse work. But even I think she is acting reckless. I think much of my farm history is reckless, and I don't recommend it. I do defend it. It's my life and my choices. I am proud of the crazy ride that took me here, mistakes included.

I do wish I was more like Stephen. I wish I planned more, worried more, and waiting a little for some things. I wish I had more resources going in and it wasn't always a risky scramble and gamble. But like Lauren, I'm doing this.


Point is some people are willing to mess up and get in deep trouble and others aren't. It's not good or bad, and it is very possible that in five years Stephen will have the best sheep farm in town and Lauren will be broke and kicked out of her apartment. It's a tossup.

My point was that people find their inner medium between these two extremes.

March 26, 2013 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

spk9093, you don't have to be snippy. Your points are valid, and I agree with them. But no need for the tone.

Be nice. It gets you farther.

And put a name or webpage behind your profile if you are going to be like that, because we don't know if you are a 14 year old girl or a 56 year old bovine vet. Blank profiles are hiding behind the internet to me.

March 26, 2013 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger nutter butter said...

i don't see this as stephen lacking gumption.

i view this as different priorities. he values having a wife and possibly a family. to stephen farming isn't EVERYTHING and there's nothing wrong with that.

its wrong to assume fear is the reason people plan or hesitate.

slow and steady can win a race.

March 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger nutter butter said...

how is spk9093 being snippy? i think most people read Laura = Jenna, lets support Laura.

maybe not how you intended, but clearly more than 1 (myself) viewed it this way.

March 26, 2013 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Linzleh said...

Stephen is in love with a dream in which he has never actually participated (watching events is not being involved). Laura actively put herself in the midst of her dream by taking part in the bucolic as well as yucky bits. She achieved her dream by taking the first real terrifying step even though she was financially unprepared. Stephen will never be a farmer. He much prefers his shepard story, the imagined controversy that restricts his potential and being the (irritating) armchair expert without dirtying his hands.

March 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger 4lilpeas said...

Wow! Food more thought definitely. I think I'm a bit of both. I'm somewhat in Lauren's shoes, but also have some of Stephen in me. I have a large collection of livestock books here as I study sheep and goats. My kids and I have visited sheep and have a goat "field trip" planned. I like to over research and plan things, but I also like to jump the gun.

Sometimes I'm afraid that if I don't blindly jump in the dream may never happen. I like to know what I'm getting into, but the financial aspect isn't always in place. Hubby is more of a "Jessica." He puts up with my animals, but doesn't truly like it.

March 26, 2013 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Emi Atkins said...

I fall into Scenario 2. I would love to have a farm. Its in my family's blood, I read the books, dream the dreams.

When I mention wanting to get a pair of chickens for the backyard my boyfriend looks at me like I'm insane...

Maybe its just a midlife crisis and It'll pass...

March 26, 2013 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

Just goes to show that each person has to make the decision that they are comfortable with. For myself, I've seen too many people die while voicing regrets. They wish they had done such-and-such. I saw my parents always not achieving their desires because the time wasn't right, the price wasn't right, or some other excuse. So in my own life......no regrets, just go for it. So what if I make a mistake? Just use it as a learning experience and try again! What if I discover that it wasn't for me? Well just go do something else! I'll only get one shot at life and I don't know how long I'll have at it. So I don't put things off for too long.

...Su Ba
Kaufarmer.blogspot.com

March 26, 2013 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

If I were single with no kids, I'd be more like Laura. But when you have other folks in the family to consider, it's a bit more complicated than just chucking everything and going for it. We're working toward my farming dream though. It'll happen when it's supposed to happen...
I see a lot of Laura in you, farmer! ;0)

March 26, 2013 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

Perhaps something to add to the internal thinking is the question of 'How much Drama can I reliably cope with in my life?' We all have different tolerances for this ... and none of us can escape it all and still call ourselves alive, yes?
Also, I think the comment about "Sometimes what you think you want isn't what will make you happy" is dead on. There may be very good, if unconscious, reasons why the 'Stephen's' put off the final step.
Which is why I do my best to offer multiple possibilities as food for thought rather than 'advice',if I am asked.

March 26, 2013 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger CheshyrCat said...

I wish Stephen had stayed with his partner . . . it is always easier to take a leap of faith by yourself (at least for me). I'd like to see what happened to Stephen if he and Jessica had stayed together. I'd like to see what happened to Laura, too, if she had a partner during her transition and aftermath.

March 26, 2013 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Stormy said...

My comments on this thought provoking exercise come from a somewhat different place.   I am a failed farmer.  It is the first time I have ever admitted it publicly and tears stream down my face as I write this.

Believe  me, you can have all of the passion, commitment, planning and effort n the world and sometimes it still all goes down in an ugly ball of flames so my comments are all rather cautionary and admittedly pessimistic in nature. 

I was born and raised on a small family farm in Oregon.  Only 60 acres it was not a fultime enterprise so my dad worked off the farm and my mom ran livestock.  My earliest memories were of being propped up in manger while my mom did chores.  It was the only life I knew or wanted. I was the first "girl" to join the FFA in my state, always deeply involved in livestock and had both the passion and the chops to be successful. Or so I thought.

A husband who shared common interests came along and we spent years, no decades doing everything we could to make a go of farming.  We raised hundreds and hundred of drop calves, Between my husband and I we have been up close and personal with a cows udder over 1.5 million times.  My husband worked for other dairymen for 13 years. Six days a week with No holidays, no Christmas, no vacations...every time the clock struck 3 he was in a dairy barn and then came home and helped feed  and doctor 20+ hungry calves.  I trotted off to whatever off farm job I could find that could add financial support of the goal.  But you know what?  All the planning, work and effort we invested wasn't enough.  Without the support of family or some mentor our cause was a lost one.  We could never get big enough or profitable enough to outpace escalating farmland values. Simply, and we could never bridge the gap between our goals being an expensive and life consuming indulgence and being the "real" deal.

So my caution to all those out there who don't want to end up like me is to think very carefully about the realistic possibilities of the long time goal of farming and what you want it to mean to you.  We would have been much better off to toss the romantic dream of farming aside and embrace something that may have been more attainable and realistic for two people who started with nothing but passion, dedication and knowledge. we could and should have fed our passion in other ways.

If we had known enough to modify our dreams early on and realize that farming could only be a hobby or very part time personal choice we would have been so much better off. By the time we realized we were spinning our wheels, it was to late.  We were past the age when you go out and get a decent career track. We have paid a very high price working in low paying fields because we let our most productive years slip away chasing a dream.  Both my husband and I are used up from the rigors of farm life and enter our later years with significant physical  damage from all of the years of heavy work that routinely exceeded the reasonable limits of our bodies could tolerate. All in pursuit of what for us turned out to be a sad love affair with a brutal mistress.

And so, I will end my cautionary tale with the hope that anyone who dreams of farming can indeed combine passion with planning and realize  that the planning portion of the exercise needs to extend to long range planning as well.

March 26, 2013 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Stormy said...

My comments on this thought provoking exercise come from a somewhat different place.   I am a failed farmer.  It is the first time I have ever admitted it publicly and tears stream down my face as I write this.

Believe  me, you can have all of the passion, commitment, planning and effort n the world and sometimes it still all goes down in an ugly ball of flames so my comments are all rather cautionary and admittedly pessimistic in nature. 

I was born and raised on a small family farm in Oregon.  Only 60 acres it was not a fultime enterprise so my dad worked off the farm and my mom ran livestock.  My earliest memories were of being propped up in manger while my mom did chores.  It was the only life I knew or wanted. I was the first "girl" to join the FFA in my state, always deeply involved in livestock and had both the passion and the chops to be successful. Or so I thought.

A husband who shared common interests came along and we spent years, no decades doing everything we could to make a go of farming.  We raised hundreds and hundred of drop calves, Between my husband and I we have been up close and personal with a cows udder over 1.5 million times.  My husband worked for other dairymen for 13 years. Six days a week with No holidays, no Christmas, no vacations...every time the clock struck 3 he was in a dairy barn and then came home and helped feed  and doctor 20+ hungry calves.  I trotted off to whatever off farm job I could find that could add financial support of the goal.  But you know what?  All the planning, work and effort we invested wasn't enough.  Without the support of family or some mentor our cause was a lost one.  We could never get big enough or profitable enough to outpace escalating farmland values. Simply, and we could never bridge the gap between our goals being an expensive and life consuming indulgence and being the "real" deal.

So my caution to all those out there who don't want to end up like me is to think very carefully about the realistic possibilities of the long time goal of farming and what you want it to mean to you.  We would have been much better off to toss the romantic dream of farming aside and embrace something that may have been more attainable and realistic for two people who started with nothing but passion, dedication and knowledge. we could and should have fed our passion in other ways.

If we had known enough to modify our dreams early on and realize that farming could only be a hobby or very part time personal choice we would have been so much better off. By the time we realized we were spinning our wheels, it was to late.  We were past the age when you go out and get a decent career track. We have paid a very high price working in low paying fields because we let our most productive years slip away chasing a dream.  Both my husband and I are used up from the rigors of farm life and enter our later years with significant physical  damage from all of the years of heavy work that routinely exceeded the reasonable limits of our bodies could tolerate. All in pursuit of what for us turned out to be a sad love affair with a brutal mistress.

And so, I will end my cautionary tail with the hope that anyone who dreams of farming can indeed combine passion with planning and realize  that the planning portion of the exercise needs to extend to long range planning as well.

March 26, 2013 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Aila_Susan said...

I think that these stories came across as being judgmental of "Stephan" and those who are like Stephan. I understand the dichotomy and I love that you want to start a conversation about this. I would like to offer though this compromise: neither person is good or bad. Everyone has to walk their own path. There is no justification needed for either scenario.

Having said that, it is *not* a negative thing when someone doesn't jump straight into farming. As evidenced by Jimmie's comment, I think that readers like to idealize the Laura's out there and demonize the Stephan's. Jenna, I have read your blog for years. I appreciate that you tend to be more like Laura and that it has worked for you. I don't judge you at all. I find it somewhat hurtful when you post something like this that comes across as negative to people who are the Stephan's out there. I normally don't post comments on blogs, but I felt that it was important to me personally to voice this opinion. Thank you for reading.

March 26, 2013 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I'm a Laura who is married to a Stephen. It works. Usually. :)

March 26, 2013 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

I think I'll simply share a quote that I like quite a bit that also applies to this situation:

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable , but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

- George Bernard Shaw

March 26, 2013 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger maddie said...

I'm a Stephen. I feel like I never have enough information or preparation. I have hopes and plans for gaining more, but I worry too much and don't leap. Lucky I'm still young and I'm becoming rebellious, another year and I'll have my truck and be on my way (hopefully, hehe).

It's funny though reading the scenarios I felt a little disdain for Stephen and some admiration for Laura(en?). I think the right opportunities popped up for her and since she really had nothing left to lose I think it was a decent jump. Stephen frustrates me a bit though. He works at home, he has a field, he has a fence, he has money! Why hasn't he done anything yet? No garden, or puppy or chickens even. I'd get too frustrated with it all just there and waiting for me. (Course just speculation, as I said I'm a Stephen more or less.)

March 26, 2013 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger HotFlashHomestead said...

I'm sure Laura is doing what makes HER happy and what she believes she has to do in life, but I would hate to be her landlord, her lamb, or anyone else whose life is affected by her. People who live this way are usually fine until a true crisis comes around -- getting seriously ill for months, losing a big income source, or facing some large repair bill, then they go under due to their constant fly-by-the-seat-of their-pants lifestyle. They're no different to me than people who stroll the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue, putting things on their credit card they shouldn't really be buying, just because they've always wanted it. And truly, there are abandoned homesteads all over the west that are living proof that "the dream" is nothing without planning, sacrifice, savings, and discipline to back it up (and sometimes, even that is not enough). Stephen may not own a farm for 10 years, but I can guarantee you, when he finally does, he'll own it for life, because he's got a well-thought out plan, and the discipline not to come home with 5 lambs in his car, just because they were offered to him and because he really, really wanted them, lol. I keep away from the Laura's on the world, because the collateral damage and chaos that surrounds their life is just too much for me. Animals die needlessly, crops are obliterated, and friends, creditors and others are imposed on beyond what's reasonable. Yet the Laura's of the world somehow never seem to see it that way.

March 26, 2013 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger LeaningDuckFarm said...

I've made both types of decisions in my farming - I was at one time a Lauren and purchased some land 80 miles away with the thought that we were going to run away and be homesteaders on the weekend and eventually full time when the kids left. Then reality set in and I realized we were oversubscribed financially and time-wise already and setting up a homestead from a hillside forest was going to be pricey and time consuming. I wanted the independence and lifestyle of farming and being away from the hassle of the burbs and jumped a little too fast.

Now for the Stephen in me...Eventually I set out to move to the country, 80 miles from my job where I mostly work from home now and my future homestead is a short drive away. I actually have more land here on my rental than I know what to do with, my current residence is way better than the scant 2 acres I bought up the highway but my job keeps me tied down - it's a tragic irony that I sit on conference calls and troubleshoot computer networking issues while I gaze out the window at my pigs, chickens and those acres of land I just cant get around to plowing. So now I am a Stephen with the farm right out the back door and several things holding me back - my job and this other land that I couldn't sell in this market for a break-even scenario.

I recommend following the middle path as the most responsible - if you don't have the resources then find a way to get them that doesn't put you out of house and home or threatens your farm goods, livestock or personal tranquility. Don't overextend yourself, you'll just end up bitter and disappointed at the losses - financially, emotionally and spiritually. However if you do have the money and time then get out there and start something no matter how small, start slowly and be patient if you are bogged down with having to keep the job for now to pay for all the toys you previously bought that never made you happy in the first place.

Lastly, if Stephen follows his dreams, starts out small but actionable and is true to himself he may just bump into someone like Lauren that is fine with this lifestyle and could not think of any better way to spend the rest of her days. If he doesn't do something soon, he's just going to settle for another Jessica or pine away the days in the same loop of misery worrying about what everyone else thinks. My pithy 14 year old daughter says while poking fun "YOLO...Hashtag-Swag!", which I've interpreted as "You only live once, walk it like you own it."

March 26, 2013 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Mardy said...

Great scenerio! I started reading Laura and thought to myself that I was reading a story of my own life.A little more extreme than me though. Than I read Stephen and that was me as well. So who am I?? I am Mardy and I am a combination of both.
Wanted to be a farmer for years. So one day I bought a book called Chick Days (very true story!) :)
Seem likey husband made an excuse every spring not to build a coop. So I brought home 6 hens in the back of my car! Yup. The only bad part...it left me hungry for oh so much more.
That following winter I added two nigerian dwarf goats....in a snowstorm. Stopped at the local TSC and bought a hay bale for $7.00!!
Hubby realized it was a passion of mine andwas on board. Built me a small barn. I now raise a half a dozen goats, small flock of sheep, laying hens and all our own turkey,pork,broilers, and veggies.
My point. I did read about the animals first anf learned as much as I could. But there is book smart and street smart. To be both you have to sometimes jump in. And as for hubby....well he loves me more than ever. If he didn't here would always be someone who would. Follow your dreams. You only live once. Surround yourself by people who support you. :) Great topic!

March 26, 2013 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

each one of us has our own issues and priorities. it is our job to work things out, put what is important first, the rest will fall into place. what is first for one is not for the other. There are lots of Stephens out there waiting for the right time to make a move. sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn't. then there are lots of Lauras out there. sometimes they make their dreams happen, sometimes they lose the shirt off their backs and have to rework their dreams and priorities. that's the way life works, nothing wrong with either approach. having a partner who shares the dream as well as a willingness to go the distance makes all the difference if the person is the type who really needs to share their life with another, be it a partner or a friend.

March 26, 2013 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Missliss said...

I AM Laura. I have read every farm book I can find, I talk about farming to my husband and my friends. I think about it all day, everyday. I don't have the money to buy land and land is very expensive in WI. But guess what, talk is cheap, so talk to everyone. We are using an overgrown orchard for free, I have 3 rabbits in my basement, chicks, turkeys and ducks are coming in the mail next Wednesday, and there is still snow outside. We are scrambling to figure out what to do with animals but things are falling into place, somehow. I'm hoping to set up an old hoop house to use as a temporary chicken coop. Yes, it would be better if I was more prepared, but I know myself well enough to know that if I sat there planning, my someday of becoming a farmer would never hapoen.

March 26, 2013 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Julie: 70 isn't too old! As long as you can breathe and take care of yourself physically, it is never too old. So you younger folks, do not panic. Plenty of us are working at farming and reworking farms as we age and go in and out of farming. You have to learn to find and exercise options, that is a vital skill in farming anyway. As much as I loved raising kids, it is freeing to realize that a bad year on the farm now only impacts me and old man farmer and we are mature enough not to let it get us down. We pull on our boots, grab a cane and get out and figure out how to deal with it, or trade, or do whatever it takes. I think the mental challenges of farming keeps us going. at age 61 I just have no feeling that I am too old,and I don't expect that age 70 will be much different(I hope anyway)but my back doesn't agree. However I have an endless supply of canes from branches the goats have nicely stripped for me.and speaking of Lauren moments, I met my old man farmer via a connection from Jon K, and we married 3 weeks later. that was 8 yrs ago, and we have never looked back. As you age it gets much easier to sort out what is worth taking risks for and what isn't.(and we don't feel we have to answer to anyone, not even our adult kids who "worry" about us).

March 26, 2013 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

So very true! I brought home my first dairy goats with only a portable electric fence and....well, that was it.

I think if you wait until you have it all figured out and ready, you'll never really get it done. It's like having human children- you'll wait forever if you wait until you can afford them and are really ready for them.

March 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

I am in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher program for Oklahoma through the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and I'll add my two cents about preparation. Everyone needs a business plan to figure out how you are going to pull this farming gig off. It is hard to prepare a plan but it will open your eyes if you do it fully. SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) has a publication (Building a Sustainable Business Guide) that is most valuable and it walks you through your mission, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The publication is worth studying. It has led me to realize I need many enterprises to make this work and horticulture is now a key to getting it together. We are working on getting a hoophouse through NRCS. Fingers crossed.

March 27, 2013 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger WillowBrookFarm said...

I'd love to leave a longer reply but it's hard on my phone.
I'd take a Laura over a Stephen any day. At fist I wanted to say get rid of Jessica, get someone who RESPECTS you AND your interests, whatever they may be! But she left and he still did nothing?! I have friends like this, in their case I think it's the way they were raised and they need to grow a set.
My DH is not really into farming so much, hates dirt, but we have a mutual respect for each others interests, so if he wants to play music at 11:30 at night I let him go at it.
I'd take a friend like Laura any day.

March 27, 2013 at 12:35 AM  
Blogger Fernleaf said...

I've certainly had 'Laura' moments and 'Stephen' moments both with our small homestead. When we first began with our small flock of ducks and hens we did a fair amount of planning (I already had lots of experience) and built the coop and run and everything with plenty of time to spare. We brought our geese, and later our goats home with much less forewarning having found them on craigslist and wanting to jump to. Although there was some scrambling at the beginning of those ventures things always seemed to settle down into a workable routine very quickly. And then with our rabbits I did a lot more planning and research before we moved foreward, so there's quite a bit of back and forth for me.

March 27, 2013 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

I had the opportunity to get dairy goats from a friend recently and I made the decision not to. I pulled a "Stephen" - and I know it was the right decision. I am not prepared for goats yet, much as I long for them! No shelter, no fencing and no money in the budget were the drawbacks. But, I also know that when the money is in the budget and a truck is available to haul the reclaimed lumber, pallets and dog pen fencing that 3 friends have for me, the concerns of others will not hold me back! I'm learning not to make the impulsive decisions without a little planning ahead. Impulsive decisions have kicked my ass before...live & learn!

March 27, 2013 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

Bravo!

March 27, 2013 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

I'm someone who used to work with a farm animal relocation/rescue group, I can tell you I've had a lot of "Laura'" type animals (sheep, goats, chickens etc) show up to be re-homed or slaughtered. Many were in bad condition and suffering, not because the owner was cruel but because they were unprepared and clueless on how to take care of farm animals. Most were not financially secure enough to afford a vet and often tried a slew of homemade remedies that often did more harm than good. I don't think we ever had any "Stephen" animals needing help, and it is probably because he never got them. You give Laura a fairly happy ending, but I think both of these examples are probably doomed to failure. If you had said Laura marries an investment banker instead of working part-time (for let's say) $11 an hour I might have believed in a bumpy but Happily Ever After.

March 27, 2013 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger J.D. Collins said...

Could these be two examples of passion, rather than inspiration?

Laura has answered the call and "made things work" with limited resources. She sees it, snares it, and works with deep passion and determination.

Stephen seems to be waiting for his passion to be answered, rather than jumping into the life as he appears to have everything in place. Everything but that passion and drive to live out a dream. At the end of the day his hesitation weakens just may weaken that dream.

Reads like failing to fear vs. fear of failure.

March 27, 2013 at 8:57 AM  
OpenID moo-producer said...

Both scenarios can work; both can fail. I'm a bigger farmer than most of you and I can tell you that the same amount of work and risk is in every level of farming. (This excludes grain farmers who have no livestock - they may have a lot of land and income, but don't have the work involved with animals, or the financial risks).

You can go broke with 0 money in the bank or $500,000.

March 27, 2013 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger redhorse said...

The Lauras can easily become hoarding situations.

Also, I don't think Spk9093 was snippy at all, and Nutterbutter has an excellent point.

March 27, 2013 at 9:53 AM  
OpenID mountainchicken said...

Both are certainly extreme and neither is ideal, but I think the Lauras of the world are world are pretty harmful.

Stephen's only fault is that he lacks ambition, whereas Laura is selfish and irresponsible.

She's selfish because she puts her enthusiasm and happiness above the welfare of her animals (for Laura, it seems, doing it RIGHT NOW is more important than taking on animals when she's more financially prepared) and the consideration of her landlord.

She's irresponsible because she's grossly unprepared (at least financially) for the undertaking. In the horse world, this happens a lot. Just because you LOVE horses and have ridden horses and doctored horses and devoted your life to horses and can afford the initial cost of a horse and NEED a horse with all your heart and soul....well that's all nice and necessary, but it does not mean you get to own a horse. Animal ownership is a luxury, not a right.

I'm definitely a practitioner of shoe-string husbandry and an advocated of the "make it work" ethos, but even I have the necessary funds to take care of business if things go south.

And odds are that things will work out. Like Laura in the scenario, I've been lucky and everything has always worked out. However, as Stormy's story shows, there is no cosmic rule that says "Just because you want something bad enough (even if you devote your life and love to it), you will eventually get it." Friends and strangers do not need to take in your animals if you can't afford to feed them; a vet does not have to extend you a payment plan to cover an emergency visits, the landlord does not need to be understanding. Sure these things happen, but they don't have to, and it's your responsibility as an animal caretaker to be prepared in case they don't.

That said, you can never be 100% prepared for the worst-case-scenario. But not having money in the bank is just negligent.

Laura isn't plucky, she's inconsiderate.

March 27, 2013 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Paul Molnar said...

I thought it was an interesting intellectual exercise. I'm in the preliminary reading and wishing phase that belongs to both Laura's and Stephen's stories. I'm essentially more a Stephen (overly cautious, researches everything to death, dreams big but is afraid to feel like he "deserves" his dream.) at heart but in more of a Laura (Crazy, but in a good way. Not afraid to dream big and act bold.) financial situation due to the aftermath of a hard divorce, so I have to get more of that mess cleaned up before I can take the leap to homesteading/farming.
I'm determined to get to have at least a part of my dream. I just haven't figured out how to get there yet.

March 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
OpenID livingmydreamlifeonthefarm said...

I have to admit that when I read this the first thing I honestly though on the laura thread was shame on the sheep farmer that gave someone living in a apartment with no land those lambs..

As for laura's choices, I personally found them foolish and I don't see her as a "farmer" in my own view of what that is.. I see her as a fly by the seat of her pants with animals.

I find the end of the story hard to believe, I want to know how she paid the bills, how did she buy the sheep she did want, and what happens if the land owner sells in the next year, what does she then do with her now expecting ten ewes plus up to 20 plus lambs?

As for Stephen, he is not a farmer either, he is a land owner with a interest in sheep dog trails.. nothing more and nothing less.

I spent a good amount of time trying hard to apply the idea of these two to my own life and my own farming history.

The closest I can get to stephen is that I have well over a hundred books on any and all subjects of farming, gardening, livestock and have taken a number of course and vet tec classes as part of my continuing education process, (there is so much money set each year into the budget for skills and knowledge)

The Closest I get to Laura, is that when I moved to the current farm I am on, i had a large barn, built a corral and went to get my dairy goat, she did come home in the back of our SUV in a Extra large dog crate and because we took our time to fence and cross fence the property, she did for the first year, get tied out to a very large tire in area's I wanted eaten down in my pasture area (but not in the hay fields) otherwise she had her indoor area and her outdoor correl.

I can say that I would possably be friends with Stephan, we most likely could have a great visit on subjects we both have a interest in.

March 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
OpenID livingmydreamlifeonthefarm said...

I have to admit that when I read this the first thing I honestly though on the laura thread was shame on the sheep farmer that gave someone living in a apartment with no land those lambs..

As for laura's choices, I personally found them foolish and I don't see her as a "farmer" in my own view of what that is.. I see her as a fly by the seat of her pants with animals.

I find the end of the story hard to believe, I want to know how she paid the bills, how did she buy the sheep she did want, and what happens if the land owner sells in the next year, what does she then do with her now expecting ten ewes plus up to 20 plus lambs?

As for Stephen, he is not a farmer either, he is a land owner with a interest in sheep dog trails.. nothing more and nothing less.

I spent a good amount of time trying hard to apply the idea of these two to my own life and my own farming history.

The closest I can get to stephen is that I have well over a hundred books on any and all subjects of farming, gardening, livestock and have taken a number of course and vet tec classes as part of my continuing education process, (there is so much money set each year into the budget for skills and knowledge)

The Closest I get to Laura, is that when I moved to the current farm I am on, i had a large barn, built a corral and went to get my dairy goat, she did come home in the back of our SUV in a Extra large dog crate and because we took our time to fence and cross fence the property, she did for the first year, get tied out to a very large tire in area's I wanted eaten down in my pasture area (but not in the hay fields) otherwise she had her indoor area and her outdoor correl.

I can say that I would possably be friends with Stephan, we most likely could have a great visit on subjects we both have a interest in.

March 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

P.S. Taking a moment to appreciate this facinating discussion and this blog which inspired it and made it possible. Thanks Jenna

March 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

I once was a Laura married to a Stephen. We separated and I thought it would be time for me to explore farming again as I always wanted to but my then-husband didn't. I spent many years during my marriage reading and informing myself through books and still wanted to do it. However my ex's methodical ways of going through life rubbed off on me and I decided to wait for the right time.

It is after reading blogs like yours as well as other homesteading blogs that I decided this isn't the life for me. Not because the blogs are bad or negative but reading a true life farming blog really opened my eyes to the amount of work and money that is involved. One blog I read, she breaks down the cost of every thing she produces on her homestead and I was shocked at how little you really do save considering the amount of work involved. I know it is a passion, I get it. Passions don't have to make financial sense I guess. I have learned over the past couple of years through blogs like yours that I would rather support the local farmers than to do it myself. That is why I would say Stephen's scenario seems better to me. Had I run into it head first when I was "convinced" this was the life for me without planning, I would maybe have made it work (possibly) but am not convinced I would have been as happy as I imagined.

March 27, 2013 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sorry Brenda, Just so many people seem to have so many regrets, and dont try anything outside the box. You sound jus fine!

March 27, 2013 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Lone Pine Farm said...

Thanks for a very thought-provoking post, Jenna! When I first read this post yesterday, I felt horrible for both Laura and Stephen. Laura had jumped in completely unprepared and suffered losses; Stephen was over-prepared and had researched his dream to death. I can relate to both of these fictional farmers - I often latch on to ideas like Laura (I can do it! It will be easy, and fun, and it will all work out beautifully!), but then switch into Stephen mode (There's gotta be books about this, I'll stop by the library and pick some up, and I bet there's some blogs and helpful articles too. How much money will this cost? Do we have the room? We should probably re-fence...) and while I've researched projects to death in the past, I am so excited about getting our farm up and running that I plan to *gasp* actually complete some projects this year! A balance of both impulse and planning seems like the best bet to succeed.

And hey, thanks to all of you other commenters for adding your opinions and experiences!

Mandi

March 27, 2013 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I deleted the snippier comments from Spk9093, to clarify my reply to her.

March 27, 2013 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

Very thought provoking subject by the comments being left. I feel compelled to respond to Aila_Susan who commented that I idealize the Lauras and demonize the Stephens. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As I said, I really, really studied Stephen's situation and I could find no reason other than passion for his not jumping into farming BY NOW...I didn't say that I thought he should jump in without some preparation. He's prepared enough, IN MY OPINION. I still maintain that until Stephen develops the passion, he will continue to be content with studying and not acting on his desire to take up farming. As for Laura, I did say that I would probably have been wanted to be better prepared financially and from a practical standpoint than Laura. I don't idealize Laura...but I still would rather know someone like her who acts on her passion than someone like Stephen who chooses not to take a chance even after much studying, availability of land, finances, etc. No demons, no idols. Just stating my preference of one over the other.

March 27, 2013 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Rosie!! Hey, thanks! What a great resource you provided there. Thanks for sharing.

I guess we were a combination of both. We talked about getting meat rabbits for a year or so. We researched it a bit on the 'net, but never really got around to doing anything. One day a colleague of DH said he found a rabbit in a parking lot, thought it was a buck, turns out it was a doe, and she had 10 kits, 7 that lived, did we want the rabbits? What!?!?!

Well, heck. We sure weren't ready. We kept them all in a large dog crate outside in the shade, in the fenced garden, until we got one double hutch built and moved them into that. Then we built the rabbit yard. Looked like we were in the rabbit business.

We got all the books we could, did all the research we could, AFTER we got the rabbits. It's worked out so far. We've expanded from that first mom to another doe and two bucks. One good thing about our operation is that if we decide to quit, they all just go to freezer camp and we sell the equipment. Poof! We're out of the rabbit business.

But...since we've been telling folks about our rabbits (we're one year and three litters in now), we've had interest in the purchase of them, once we talk up how good rabbit meat is and how our rabbits are raised. So, we're now looking at making it into a profitable operation, something that can go into our retirement with us and make us a little money to supplement our income. I think we've got a bit of a head start in that our area is just now getting the 'eat local' wave and no one in the area seems to be producing any rabbits, much less quality, farm raised rabbits (NOT made in china).

I don't really consider us farmers. We call ourselves Ranchers, since we have livestock and a stock dog, and DH is from Texas!

Thanks for the interesting discussion. There sure are alot of different opinions out here.

March 27, 2013 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Paul Molnar said...

Hear, hear!!!

March 27, 2013 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Neil Gillespie said...

Hi Stormy, thanks for your post. Luck, good luck, has more to do with "success" than most people care to admit. "Laura" in Jenna’s story got lucky. If an animal control officer had come to her apartment the day after the five lambs arrived, things could have gone south in a hurry. (lambs gone, and Laura homeless!). But Laura had good luck, and a happy ending.

March 27, 2013 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

It sounds to me like Laura & Stephen need to get together. Seriously, I think that they are both farmers but Laura wants it more and is willing to jump into it and start living the life that she really wants. Stephen made the mistake of listening to those around him and not listening to his heart. If he waits too long, he may never do it and will have missed out on his dreams.

March 28, 2013 at 6:30 AM  

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