The sad truth is that to some extent (and I’m not sure how much), I was taken in by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romanticization of farm life as a child. And the more I learn about both the reality of farming and of Wilder, the more that disturbs me. But if that was the seed to my desire to have a farm, it grew into a very different thing based on experience.
Down on the… Backyard
Not much experience, true. But for most of my middle school and teen years, my father and I kept a small vegetable garden in our backyard. Strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli once — that we didn’t harvest soon enough and went to seed.
And I loved it. I loved almost every part of it — picking out the baby plants or seeds at the store, preparing the ground, watching them grow, watering… okay, not the weeding… but I also loved how the stuff we bought at the supermarket never tasted as good as what we grew ourselves.
Supermarket strawberries were more sour than sweet. Our strawberries were a delicious button of sweetness with just a hint of sour. Store cucumbers were watery and tasteless. Our cucumbers, while still milder than I’d prefer, were crunchy and had a light flavor I could enjoy once in a while. And lettuce. I don’t know what lettuce Mom was buying at the store, but it never tasted anything like fresh picked from out back. We grew leaf lettuce, so instead of harvesting a whole head at a time, I could pick just enough leaves for salad or sandwiches.
The garden was a bit of a sore spot between me and Mom. Dad got into just because Dad liked gardening. But Mom wasn’t one for getting dirty. And she didn’t understand why when I was so picky and didn’t eat half of what we grew, I still wanted to keep growing vegetables. Though she did get into it after a few years and talked about planting a row of corn at the back so we’d have fresh all summer.
Two Goals, One Farm
Michael had always wanted a farm too, but their idea of a farm was more livestock focused. They talk about wanting chickens and goats and pigs (no) and llamas and… They also have a more commercial focus for the farm. Which, they kind of need if they are going to raise livestock. Starting with heirloom seeds or even wild plants, the cost of a large garden/small farm can be more than covered in what we save on groceries. (I have a not-so-short list of native and other wild food plants I’d like to grow.) If I have enough extra to set up a roadside stand or a small boxed-food thing, that’s a bonus.
Animals are expensive, both getting them, feeding them, and caring for them. So Michael needs the farm to be commercial in a way that I don’t. Michon is all about the animals too. Ze and Michael will get into discussions about sheep vs goats and why they don’t want guinea fowl. Honestly after ten minutes I lose interest.
I don’t have anything against raising animals, but it’s not where I want to put my time and energy. I don’t have experience or much knowledge to contribute. I’ll give my opinion if they ask for it and have occasionally put my foot down (no pigs). Michael and I both have ‘Farm’ on our list of 5 things to do with our lives. We have rather different ideas of what we want to do with the farm. If this gets off the ground, we will largely be running in parallel (while pitching in to help each other as we can).
That’s not to say I wouldn’t want the farm to be commercial. I love the idea of doing monthly boxes or similar that folks can sign up for. I spent a fun afternoon brainstorming different kinds of boxes, from basic veggies to a native foods box, to a canned and stewed box for over the winter.
But making it commercial is, for me, a nice bonus. The goal is to have the land, energy, and resources to grow food to feed my family for a good chunk of the year while saving on grocery bills.