Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Farmers Want You to Know and What They Need to Hear

Damn...sometimes this farming thing is hard. Okay, actually, most of the time it is. Today was one of those days where I had to keep reminding myself that it is worth the pain, the tears of frustration, the extra expenses and time. Oh so much time.

Ric working on the fence that this guy keeps escaping from.

As I looked out the window to see Rocky, my Shetland sheep ram, hanging out in the yard...the part of the yard that is not fenced, I mumbled under my breath something slightly colorful. The 3rd time today that I saw him doing the same, it was less quiet and a bit more colorful. And after the 6th time, I looked at my phone to realize that a day planned for other endeavors was basically gone. The light was waning. And out of desperation I touched the electric fence to see if it was even working. It was.

Damn it is cold in these here parts.

This post is to illustrate something specific for two different groups of people.

For those that have never had to bundle up in 20 degree weather to walk a fence to find out where the weakness is, those that have never really worried that the hay you just bought is full of crap and can’t be fed to your animals, those that have never lost their entire crop of tomatoes to disease, or lost one of their animals, I wanted to paint a picture of the struggles that the small farmer goes through on a day to day basis. It is just a reminder that when you buy that piece of pizza, that salad, or that knit sweater, of the things that could (and should) have gone into making them for you. I know you know, but sometimes we take things for granted. Not all the time, but sometimes we wonder why that farmer is charging a bit more for that organic carrot, or why that hand spun yarn is $20 a skein. And the sad fact of the matter is, almost never is that a true representation of the time and resources that went into that product.

Take that destructive tomato hornworm. (A parasite laid its eggs on it.)

So you are saying...man, then why do it? After a day like today, freezing pipes, sheep running amok, moldy hay, I had a moment of that, too. But I do it for the same reason so many other farmers and ranchers do. It is important work. It ties us to our past, our heritage, to the food we eat, to the clothes we wear. We know what we put in and on our bodies, as well as our friends, families and our customers. As a society, we have lost our passion and respect for it, and we see that as we lose countless acres of farmland, and as our aging farmers look to retire and don’t see who will take up the reins. But luckily, it also seems like there are some folks going back to the land. More new-to-farming folks, women and young people. And most of us run at it headlong, not really knowing what the hell we are doing. But after doing this for almost 3 years in some fashion or another, it kind of seems like no one really ever does. Sure, you learn a lot, but something new is thrown at you all the time. What farmers are really good at is learning to roll with the punches and make due as best is possible.

I urge everyone to look into the slow food and slow fashion movement. Go down to the local farmers’ market and ask your farmer more about how they grow and the challenges they face. Or just say thanks and buy that carrot or skein of yarn and make yourself a new, cozy hat and some yummy soup.

I made dis. (From shearing to finished piece.)
Wait, who is the other person this is for? For all of you either doing this work or thinking about doing it. I just want to say I am here for you. I am still new, and definitely don’t know it all. But I do know that having others to talk to is pretty much the best thing there is for any of us. And if you are thinking about going into this work, but hesitate because you don’t know much...just do it. It will likely be very hard at first. And even after you feel like you sorta have the swing of things, there will be days that are still very hard. But hands on experience and learning as you go is sort of the only way in this field. And to those that have been doing this a while, those that I have made a panicked phone call to when my ewe lambed the day before a HUGE move or who taught me about natural insecticides, THANK YOU. All of you out there being an inspiration and going through as much, pardon my french, shit, and more than we tiny fiber farmers do, THANK YOU. We all need you.



  1. Between the chuckles, this brought a tear to my eye.

  2. So glad you are out their trying hard to live a purposeful life and inspiring others!

    1. Thanks so much, Connie! So happy to have folks like you to network with and learn from!