Tuesday, March 24, 2015

You Don't Deserve a Farm

So you want to have a farm? You know this. You know it as sure as you know you love coffee and petrichor. It's all you think about. It's all you dream about. It's all you can do to at work to keep homesteading sites off your computer screen. You subscribe to magazines that confuse the mailman. You collect hatchery and seed catalogs the way other people collect take-out menus. This is not just a passing fad, fantasy crush, or a daydream. You're into it. This is who you are.

And since we live in such a technological age where everyday people can post their stories, photos, and experiences with the entire world you have proof positive it can happen to people like you. Your bookshelf is overflowing with fish-out-of-water new farmer memoirs. There are blogs and Instagram feeds where favorite first-date sweaters from the city are turning into chore clothes. Maybe if all this evidence wasn't constantly being presented to you, you might be able to shrug off the idea of a farm as eccentric wanderlust. But you can't. Not anymore. The idea of getting backyard chickens, a share of a pig, or starting a veggie garden where the front lawn usually resides is happening everywhere. You want it, too.

And if you are anything like me you can't hide it. You just can't. What you love is what you are and so slowly more plaid shirts and jeans creep into your casual friday wardrobe. Your old Chuck Taylors are growing mold in the closest while Muck Boots become your new weekend kicks. Books on Nigerian Dwarf Goats and applications to the Rabbit Breeders Association of America pile up on your coffee table. Friends are raising eyebrows. Family is concerned. You were always farm-curious but suddenly the pride parade is out in full force.

But you don't have a farm, not yet. You are still getting up at 5:45 to get ready for your day job. You have not sold your house, you have not ended the lease on your apartment, and you have not looked into Farm Insurance. You are still writhing in that wonderful torture that is wanting something close enough to touch but seemingly impossible to have. Probably, because you lack support. Certainly, because you listen to the wrong people.

As someone who has hopped over the fence from wanting to having, I am going to share with you this horrible truth: whatever amount of passion drives you to succeed there will always be people with equal passion hoping that you fail. They will drive into your head at every available moment that you don't deserve a farm.

Do not believe them.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not believe them. I am telling you this from the front lines. I am telling you this from a farm I bought and have managed to keep for five years and counting. I am telling you this as a woman who is fighting every day to be a better person, live an authentic life, and be a self-employed artist on 6.5 acres of hope and force. I am not rich, I am not smart but I am stubborn and I'd rather be that than anything else in this world. Determination buys farms. Banks just hold paper people pretend matters.

So don't believe them! I don't care what your income is today. I don't care how much land you have today. I don't care if you're a 19-year-old in a college dorm in Chicago. Do not believe them. They are Agents of Caution* and Wardens of Complacency. They are jealous of your restart button. They are terrified they can't find theirs. They are barking dogs in the background of a movie about wolves. And know these people are not bad people. Some may love you very much, others may claim to love animals very much and don't want a beginner raising them. They want you to be "realistic" and "honest" about your abilities. They want you to have a business partner, or save 25 grand first, or wait until you retire. the list is longer than winter. Fuck that.

Listen, for many people happiness is another word for peer-approved solvency. They see going after dreams as either irresponsible, selfish, or self-destructive. They are probably right, but so what? SO WHAT! It is YOUR life.

I will share the best advice I ever heard on wanting a life you don't have; If you are okay with ending up living under a bridge instead of giving up on the thing you love, than you should probably be doing that thing.* I am one of the Bridge People. You need to be if you want to live any sort of Creative Life, and in many cases, any sort of Agricultural Life full time. I am 100% certain I would rather end up starving under a bridge than give up this amazing life I have created for myself. Which is why I never will give it up. Which is why I am still here, writing to you on a weekday morning, waiting for the farrier to come and trim my pony's hooves. That sentence was impossible to me a handful of years ago. Now it's Tuesday.

Want to make people despise you? Live like this. Some folks will admire you, others will watch the train teeter as it rattles by towards its final destination to wreck or roundhouse. Others will raise pitchforks and torches, absolutely certain you are cheating at life. Either way, mostly everyone will be uncomfortable around you. This doesn't make you exceptional or better, but it does make you part of a tribe that creators leaders or fools and nothing in-between. Man up and own that. Chief or Idiot, you're one of us.

And know people who are either too scared, too threatened, or too confused by your choices will attack you. They may be people who love you, that share your bed, or live block away. They may be neighbors, in-laws, or strangers on the internet. Listen to them but listen through a pane of glass. Don't let the spit from their maw fleck onto your brow. Their may be wisdom there but choosing your dream life isn't about wisdom, it's about courage. The wisdom comes later when you are trying to keep it.

Look at Josh at West Wind Acres going to court tonight to defend his farm from 12 accounts of animal abuse? He chose to leave a job he hated for one that made him and his family free. Someone hated that about him and all it took was a pointed finger to make his life hell. I don't know why they pointed or what happened to cause the pointing—but I am100% sure whoever turned him in for "animal abuse" was not a happy person living their best life.

What kind of person turns in a farmer with obvious support and validation? People who are angry. People who are ignorant. People who are so goddamned terrified of their own life they need constant distraction from it. Feel bad for these people, but do not let them penetrate your hide. Wolves eat dogs.

My support goes out to Joshua tonight. My support goes out to you. I say that here from my little farm soapbox because it's everything I am and will defend it with such vicious love you better be wearing armor if you try to take it from me. What is happening to the Rockwoods could just as easily be happening to me. For that reason it IS happening to me, just as it is happening to everyone out here raising livestock to the best of our abilities while cowards make phone calls in the dark. Support them tonight, support yourselves, and don't ever be ashamed to be one of the Bridge People fighting every day to make your life what you dream. Ever.

It is occasionally going to be very hard.
It is always going to be worth it.

*Dan Harmon's words, quote.


Blogger Susan said...

excellent post. If I only had a nickel every time someone told me I couldn't do something! I usually went ahead and did it anyway after considering the angles. I'm not sure where the persecution of small farmers is going, seems we're on on a rollercoaster, but you're so right we need to stick together and resist this madness! We need to stand up for what we know is right.

March 24, 2015 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

yep. everyone who told me that it would never work just encouraged me to get it done. how do you like me now, suckers? ha! there are/were a lot of people who are mad at my life and i keep wondering, 'we are happy and we aren't hurting anyone so why are so you angry?' i dont think people want my life - i think they are mad i got up and did it. nothing but their own thinking is keeping them from living the life they want. WWA has my support also.

March 24, 2015 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

well said Jenna. I love that you said "fuck". :)

March 24, 2015 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Good post. I had someone that wanted to tell me how I should live my life. All I did was ask them if they wanted me to tell them how they need to live and all of the things that they needed to change. They stopped after that.

March 24, 2015 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"It is always going to be worth
it", truer words never spoken.....

Great Post Jenna......

March 24, 2015 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Christina S said...

Thanks for the extra motivation this morning. I am currently working towards the goal if having my own full time farm...hopefully within the next three years it will be a reality!!! Please keep us updated on Josh and his farm!!! I hope all goes well for him, and wish I lived close enough to show up and show my support!!!

March 25, 2015 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Laurie Chase Kruczek said...

I needed this so badly today. Thanks for the jump start. I had a farm, left, now want to go back to it. Hood River Valley or bust!

March 25, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

Right on! I took the leap late in life....52 years old. But at least I finally decided to live MY life, not what others told me. Even though I knew very little to start, I've become a homesteader and I love it. Every day, no matter how bad, is still a good day. My blog generates lots of email from people who say they want to live my life, and I reply, why not? Close your eyes and jump. If you fail, then jump again. And again. I have a neighbor who started out late in life too, and failed 3 times, regrouped and finally is successful on the fourth attempt. He says he's the happiest and most content he's ever been and plans to die working on his farm. Good for him!

Yes, people will tell you that you can't live your dream. I listen but no longer take to heart what others tell me about how to live my life. I'm doing all kinds of crazy things now, like taichi, learning to block print, I even learned how to build my own house. Jenna, you inspired me to try keeping pigs and I really enjoy them. I hope to produce my first litter this summer. I'm constantly trying new things. How fun!

March 25, 2015 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Heather-Anne said...

Crying. Really struck a cord with me. I needed to hear this.

March 25, 2015 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Yes, yes, yes. I managed to have a small farm...2.75 acres. The area was enough for my pets, horses, chickens and garden. I was fortunate to have a career as a Forester, in the US Forest Service in a rural area of Oregon. The home and land were affordable. I could work in my career and affordable the life I wanted. Now I own 10 acres, it is really nice not to have close next door neighbors. I have been blessed.

March 25, 2015 at 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The anthology Greenhorns (which Jenna is in) is a great overview of what the modern small scale farming experience is like these days.

March 26, 2015 at 7:33 AM  

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