Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Why We Farm: The Final Chapter

Dear Readers,

This will be my last post on Homegrown.org.  At least for a while.  Let me tell you why.

I began Dissertation to Dirt hoping to answer a single question: can young Americans make a career of farming?

It may not seem compelling at first, but that question is the heart of the food movement.  Why?  Because for all the excitement around eating good, healthy whole food, we cannot have this food without farmers.  More pointedly, we will not have this food without new farmers.  You probably know the statistics.  The average farmer is a 55+ male, and together they make up about 1% of the population. There are few local food chains left in the United States, and the majority of our food is made up of the same genetically-modified crops: corn, soy, and wheat.

If that’s how we want things to stay, then nothing needs to change. But if we want to create dynamic, functional food systems that supply local areas, then farming must be accessible to those who want it.  And if we want to create these systems sooner rather then later, then farming must not only be accessible, but also attractive, to young people starting their careers.

After three years of trying to make farming our living, Travis and I are leaving the fields.  We’ve taken different jobs, and we’re not planning on farming again until we can do it from a place of financial security and stability.  So as for the question with which I began my blog, the answer, for me anyway, is no. Young people cannot reasonably have careers in farming in America.  Here are a few reasons why it hasn’t worked out for me:

Wages. As farm interns, we earned well below minimum wage. As farm workers, we earned between $8.50 and $10.00 an hour.  And as farm managers, we earned $11.50.  And…that’s it.  There was nowhere else to advance.  We had no health insurance, no benefits, and often we weren’t able to find consistent work 52 weeks out of the year.  How long could we go on earning a static income, barely able to save money, and certainly unable to buy a house, have children, or have any luxuries in our lives?

Land Access. There is one place to advance from farm worker, and that’s to farmer.  But buying a piece of land and farming it meant loading ourselves with debt upwards of $300,000.  Considering that working on farms had already depleted our life savings, we weren’t interested in accruing debt at the very moment we’d have a hefty loan payment every month.  Even with resources like the FSA loan, buying land is extraordinarily risky for a young farmer, especially if he or she has little or no financial parachute in case the business goes under.  And for those working on farms for a length of time before applying to FSA, financial insecurity can usually be assumed.

Understanding and Support.  While the food movement is incredibly supportive of young farmers, there is a lack of understanding of the difficulties of beginning a farming business.  Starting a farming business is different than growing food in your spare time, on an abandoned lot with city water fees and no equipment.  Starting a farming business requires money, all your time, and a lot of risk.  I have had countless offers to both farm tiny plots of land with no infrastructure, as well as purchase large tracts for close to $1,000,000.  Anything I felt was even close to feasible, I pursued, but because I wasn’t willing to risk my finances or stability for my family, I never got very far.

On the other hand, those who do understand the intricacies of farming for a living — other established farmers — are not exactly waiting with open arms for young farmers.  Farming communities vary from place to place, but often newcomers are viewed with suspicion.  Even spite.  And because labor is such a valuable commodity in farming, the temptation to take advantage of young farmers by making them work hard and paying them in “experience” is very high.  While I’ve had some amazing mentors — namely, Betsey Ryder and Fuad Aziz at Ryder Farm and Marysol Valle at Urban Roots, other farmers I’ve worked with have sought little more than to take advantage of my enthusiasm and work ethic for their own gain.

As the holidays approached this year, I had to take stock of my priorities.  I first went into farming in order to take care of my family. But what I discovered is that farming alone will not let me do that.  Agriculture has slid so far out relevance, it’s going to take a lot of effort to bring it back into the American mainstream.  While food and agriculture remain important to me, I think valuing it over my ability to provide for those I love would be selfish.  Will Travis and I farm again? Perhaps. After we’ve made enough money to buy a farm on our own.

I want to thank all of you for following me on my journey.  And I want to give a huge thank you to the folks at Homegrown and FarmAid, who have been so supportive, so thoughtful, and have let me post whatever the heck I want here week in and week out.  If I think of a way to further contribute to this conversation about farming in America, I’ll be back and writing again.  Until then, best wishes over the holidays. Peace!

With questions, Neysa can be reached at neysack AT gmail DOT com.

31 Responses to “Why We Farm: The Final Chapter”

  1. Neysa, this is sad. It’s the second such post I’ve seen TODAY. I’ve enjoyed following your posts and will miss them.

    Let me say this about the future of farming for young people. I’m in my forties, have a passion for small farming, though I have to be content with “homesteading” because of many of the reasons you list above. I must keep a “day job” because of the barriers to entry. But I have a teenage son who looks ahead to the day when he can be a farmer. I’m not content with telling him it isn’t possible. My goal is to put him in the position where land cost and experience are not an issue. I will purchase land now for his future. I will work now for favorable government regulation toward small farms. I will apprentice him asap so that $8-$11/hr is money he can save while he finishes his education. And then I will release him on the land.

    All that to say that I think the future of small farming for young people rests in planning by those of us who believe in farming now. Current landholders and land trusts must be aggressively setting aside land for young farmers. This doesn’t help the current crop of young farmers like you, but if you care about the ability for young people to farm the way I know you do, I hope you will pursue this dream not only for yourself, but for those who come after you. I hope you can find profitable work now that will allow you to pursue your dream, and then pass it on to the next generation.

    Blessings.

  2. Neysa,
    My heart aches reading this, but I know that you’re on the right road. Thank you for your intelligent analysis of the challenges of agriculture today. Your posts will serve as an invaluable resource for others considering entering the fields – as an intern, farm worker, or farmer.
    Wishing you a peace-filled, joyous holiday season. We’ll see you down the road.
    xo,
    Cornelia

  3. David,

    That means a lot to me. I think you are absolutely right. I jumped into farming hoping that I could make it work through sheer will and resourcefulness. But really it ‘s going to take a lot more planning and calculation. I think the generation after me has a much better chance of making it because of people like you who are starting to make changes now.

    Thank you so much for reading my posts. All best, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday week.

  4. Thank you so much Cornelia. You are the greatest. I know it seems sad but looking forward, I’m optimistic. Travis and I are in a good place now and I think the future is bright. All that’s left for me is to figure out how I can keep contributing. We’ll see!

  5. Wow. How sad… Thank you for all your efforts… I think you analysis of farming and family sustainability in america is RIGHT ON!

    My wife and I have for years now thought how can we get into a small farm.. and make it work.. Grass fed beef, raw milk, veggies.. all seem profitable when you think about what you pay for them.. But once you start looking into the raw costs of owning and operating even a small farm.. its well insurmountable..

    There is NO affordable & fertile land in this country that makes sense to operate a small farm. Even if you can find fertile land you can start a small organic farm on you are SO removed from everyone and everything that you end up needing to truck you wares hundreds of miles to take it from farm to table.

    The price of property is not making it easy either.. or even possible.. Families in this country today who are on the brink of homelessness every single month living from paycheck to paycheck making 10-15.00 per hour are the people who WANT to take on this job… But because of the price of land and homes. It has become a unachievable. dream. The price of farmland started to skyrocket in the 1970′s but before that.. Being able to purchase reasonable land was not out of reach for most.. From 1900 – 1949 the farm land value averaged 30-45.00 per acre.. Now keep in mind this is the price our grand parents paid for those family farms that the grand kids would rather sell into housing tracts.. in the 1980′s this was up to 250.00+ per/a http://gpih.ucdavis.edu/files/Lindert.pdf today.. the prices are astronomical Today the average American (iowa) farmland per acre price is above $5500.00 (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c2-70.html) Amazing.. How in the heck is ANYONE supposed to be able to afford a family farm at these prices.
    Aside from the cost of land.. the current government is not helping the American family farm. Tighter and Tighter restrictions imposed every year are not only making farming inconvenient but extremely expensive on the small farmer. When new regulations farmers need to purchase new equipment that meets new standards or face fines for being out of compliance or even face being shut down, or raided by the FDA and DHS..
    No folks… your not alone.. the dream of family farming seems dead in this country and the only way it is coming back…. Well…. I don’t think I have that answer yet.. It breaks my heart.. Not only for my own family but for ours… Thank you for all your hard work..

  6. this is sad to hear and also frightens me a little. im a 28 year old trying to make a living by farming and im running into all the same probems. this will be my 5th year and im just hoping things work out. i know i dont hear much encouragemet and that is one of the things that makes this venture even harder so i just want to say you can do it and dont give up

  7. Wow. How sad… Thank you for all your efforts… I think you analysis of farming and family sustainability in america is RIGHT ON!

    My wife and I have for years now thought how can we get into a small farm.. and make it work.. Grass fed beef, raw milk, veggies.. all seem profitable when you think about what you pay for them.. But once you start looking into the raw costs of owning and operating even a small farm.. its well insurmountable..

    There is NO affordable & fertile land in this country that makes sense to operate a small farm. Even if you can find fertile land you can start a small organic farm on you are SO removed from everyone and everything that you end up needing to truck you wares hundreds of miles to take it from farm to table.

    The price of property is not making it easy either.. or even possible.. Families in this country today who are on the brink of homelessness every single month living from paycheck to paycheck making 10-15.00 per hour are the people who WANT to take on this job… But because of the price of land and homes. It has become a unachievable. dream. The price of farmland started to skyrocket in the 1970′s but before that.. Being able to purchase reasonable land was not out of reach for most.. From 1900 – 1949 the farm land value averaged 30-45.00 per acre.. Now keep in mind this is the price our grand parents paid for those family farms that the grand kids would rather sell into housing tracts.. in the 1980′s this was up to 250.00+ per/a http://gpih.ucdavis.edu/files/Lindert.pdf today.. the prices are astronomical Today the average American (iowa) farmland per acre price is above $5500.00 (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c2-70.html) Amazing.. How in the heck is ANYONE supposed to be able to afford a family farm at these prices.
    Aside from the cost of land.. the current government is not helping the American family farm. Tighter and Tighter restrictions imposed every year are not only making farming inconvenient but extremely expensive on the small farmer. When new regulations farmers need to purchase new equipment that meets new standards or face fines for being out of compliance or even face being shut down, or raided by the FDA and DHS..
    No folks… your not alone.. the dream of family farming seems dead in this country and the only way it is coming back…. Well…. I don’t think I have that answer yet.. It breaks my heart.. Not only for my own family but for yours… Thank you for all your hard work..

  8. Kudos to David and best of luck to him and his son. Neysa, Travis and Michael, PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP! I too want to be a farmer “when I grow up.” The difference is I’m almost 51! My partner and I both work full time jobs. I won’t be fulfilled until we set up our small organic farm. We have 9 acres and will use a small portion of it to grow specialty produce for a local farmers’ market. I’m hoping our farm venture will allow us to increase our retirement accounts and give us something to do together. We will never support ourselves with our farm but we WILL improve our lives. I hope you find a way to fulfill your dreams.
    May 2012 bring you many blessings.
    Leslie

  9. Michael, Thanks for reading and thanks for the encouragement. I hope that you make it work! This is just my experience and I can’t say how it will turn out for anyone else. I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Feel free to email me.

  10. Oh my. You have captured my heart and mind. I have been asking myself if small farmers will make it for years now. I have wondered about the numbers, the time, the costs. I have not had a good feeling in my stomach and lord knows I wanted one. I get angry when I think of all the good heart, soul and vision that goes into the young farmers movement and wonder when we will start giving them a hand up — land that is reasonably priced, loans that are set to reasonable time lines, incentives to take the leap against all odds.

    I have always wondered about farming as a lifestyle vs. a business. That is, coming together with others to live off what we grow and make and not turn to the marketplace for a source of income. That, I suppose, was and is the vision of communes, collectives and intentional communities all over the country though I realize they have their own inherent challenges. But, honestly, I do not always understand how else it will work.

    For my part I speak and write and live as a householder – that odd urban rural distillate that attempts to grow and produce as much as I can and when I do need to “shop” I do it directly with farmers. I have tried to create householding CSA’s wherein I put my order (say 100 pounds of potatoes) in at the beginning of the year as oppose to getting small shares throughout the season. I have tried advocating for small farmers in every way this urban gal can think of but still, I had a sinking feeling. How long before they get tired? How long before they give up? I have been reading articles of investors buying up farm land as a hedge against the stock market. They see it only as an investment but land speculation has been with us from the beginning of time. Unless we start understanding the real value of soil and those who are willing to work it we are in deep, deep shit.

    Sure, we can all go to the farmer’s market and pay farmers their due (hardly their due) but we are also, as consumers, facing off with diminishing returns. Do I buy the head of cabbage for $7.00 or one for $1.50? How does one prioritize? I watch as a hipster culture (the same culture that is supposed to care about the future of farming) spend their “disposable” income on all sorts of other stuff in the market place (chocolates with finishing salts, $9.00 cocktails etc, etc, etc.) and I wonder if they are really thinking about the soil and the hard times farmers are facing off with. I don’t want to preach but I sorta do to anyone who is still willing to listen to me. I have become the resident Debbie Downer but I can’t help it. We have lost more than top soil we have lost a rural ethic of frugality and solidarity — not just in theory but in actuality.

    So your post breaks my heart because I understand the very good vision you had and I think it is a wake up call for all of us. I hope others can find a way to keep small scale farming alive but I think it will take more than hope. It will take more than the weekly trip to the farmer’s market or a pedigree chicken in the freezer. I think it will take urban-rural partnerships that are more engaged, more radicalized, more progressive. It will take a return to a populist movement the likes of which Farm Aid’s radical membership (as a parent site to HomeGrown) can speak of. That, too, is part of our agricultural past — a radical and dissenting voice against the political, economic and social conditions that has, and continues to, frustrate small scale farming movement.

    I was heartened by the Occupy Food Movement and hope it gains traction this spring and summer. I hope to see members of this Home Grown Site out there. I hope we show up in the streets and on the farms. I hope the urban mystique of fancy boutiques and “good living” does not delude us as to what is really happening. Yes, folks care but maybe not enough. As I am won’t to say…if the soil is sick we are all sick. Sadly we have been so long removed from the good earth that we hardly understand that.

    Excuse me my rant. You have just hit me where I live. Please accept my best wishes and love for your future. Maybe all of us need to come together, chip in and get back to a life down on the farm that allows for the sort of humanity and equity the marketplace is less inclined to offer. That’s a utopian notion I know but this householder keeps thinking about it. Surely I do.

  11. Neysa,
    My name is Gwen and I joined Homegrown today. Reading your blog almost brought me to tears.
    I joined because I’m so excited that at the age of 52 I was able to make a small vegetable garden in my backyard. I was so happy eating fresh vegetables that next year I’m tripling the space, dug up two evergreens and planted a peach and a pear tree, started composting and vermicomposting and hope to raise bees in the future.

    I know this is nothing like trying to make a living on the land. Both my mother and father’s sides of the family were farmers at one time and now no one is anymore. I know farming seems impossible for right now. I was a very successful Real Estate broker at one time and then the bottom fell out of the market. I hope you know that we are all in the same boat right now. We are all scrambling to make ends meet, (or at least look at each other) in these trying times. I hope you start to consider this as just a pause in your goal of having a self sustaining farm. Those of us who are trying relearn the skills we used to know need people like you. We need your expertise and encouragement. As more of us find out that the taste and value of homegrown and fresh from the farm grown far outweighs anything we can purchase in a supermarket we will start to change. It took us a long time to move from an agricultural to an industrial nation, it will also time for us to understand that moving back does not mean moving backward. I’m finding there are urban farms springing up all over. A year ago I didn’t know there was such a thing. Now we just need to figure out how to make a living at it.

  12. Hi Friends,

    This is the first time I have seen your blog. I found out about it through. Even though I live in another country, I have been studying John Moody’s system design for food clubs:
    http://www.foodclubsandcoops.com

    My husband just finished Joel Salatin’s new book: Folks This Ain’t Normal. It was my Christmas present to him. He read it in two days. In the book Joel reference to Small Plot Intensive Farming (SPIN). He said: “I met a young farmer in British Columbia recently who radiated farming entrepreneurial success. He owns no land, but has access to half an acre, and makes $50,000 off it – a full-time income. For most people who have never visited these highly productive, intensive, integrated, multidimensional, stacked models, the sheer productive capacity per cubic foot is mind-boggling.”

    I took a good look at the website and I cannot say it works but Joel Salatin does know good food and a good business structure when he sees it. Here is the link if you are interested:
    http://spinfarming.com/buy/farming.php

    If you haven’t lost money farming you haven’t done it right, became is my motto after a number of years trying to go organic and pastured based! It’s hard work and industrial food is worth so little it makes no financial sense to grow food the “right way” for other people. They just will not pay enough. I do very much think it is worth my time to grow good food for my family. I hope you are not going to stop growing quality food for yourself and your family?

    Remember, even if you cannot “make it pay” in the present toxic food environment, growing good food, the right way, is always right for our families. By doing so you will keep the skills alive and help train the new generation of gardener, farmers and ranchers. Don’t give up on a good idea because the “market” is stupid.

    Cheers,
    Caroline Cooper
    Weston A Price Foundation Kamloops Chapter
    eatkamloops.org

  13. A minor set-back we hope- a temporary course change- stay in touch- you are part of a positive force that is growing and changing the way we think about our food and who grows it.

    Owen + Christine

  14. I hope this won’t keep you from getting back in to farming in the near future,i certainly understand your struggle.I think folks coming into this lifestyle and line of work really need to take a good look at it before they dive in,and not only look at the fantasy of living on a farm and “growing food for people”.The population of educated food consumers that are willing to pay the price of production and understand the work involved is still a fairly small segement.It’s growing everyday,but it’s different from area to area,and may not fit the model for your community,which you may rely on to pay your bills.If you have a good job outside the operation KEEP IT! Grow your farm and ranch business to a point where you can justify quitting you job before doing so,you’ll be better of for it.I ranch part time and work for the county Ag dept,we lease right now,hoping to buy this place but we’ll see.It’s a tough row to hoe for young and beginning farmers and ranchers,all i can say is don’t give up and be honest and fair about your goals and expectations!Good luck to you guys! Solomon.

  15. This saddens me. I’ve been following your journey and always found your work so inspiring. Regardless of the outcome for you and the other farmers working tirelessly to provide the rest of us healthy, real, and sustainable food, please know that I’m so glad to have learned from your journey. Best wishes to you.

  16. If you liked this you should check out this:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/897079804/homesweet-homegrown

  17. I linked to this post in my blog. (http://birgitts-place.dreamwidth.org/30347.html) I hope that is alright. I am an accountant by day and a 30+ year urban farmer who would LOVE to quit accounting to grow food. But the numbers don’t work out – in either urban or rural agriculture. People are having to resort to installing chi-chi little food plots for wealthy suburbanites and other gimicky projects to survive.

    No one on Wall Street would ever consider making the capital investment needed for a farm just to get a 4% annual return.

    Thank you for this post. Someone needs to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

    But this WILL need to change and so I think it will change. Eventually. After all, what are those aging farmers going to do with their land when their kids don’t want to farm it?

    Good luck,

    Birgitt

  18. I have loved your writing and am so sad by your post – only because you are so right-on as to the overwhelming obstacles real-food farmers face – especially starting off. I’m glad for you though, that you are regrouping. I hope new opportunities to farm come for you — we sure need you! Like some other commenters mentioned, it’s so frustrating that folks will buy techno stuff all day, then balk at prices at the farmers market. Alas, the modern human. But I also see more folks waking up—if slowly. And when they are more awake, folks like you with the skills we need will be there. Take care. Rest up. There’s a lot of people rooting for you and young farmers like you.

  19. P.S. We have had several young farmers move to our area (Northwest Arkansas) just because the land is cheaper than some places. Still a tough row to hoe…finding affordable land with a market near enough to access. And like most, most have off-farm jobs too. Meanwhile, we’re working on more support with a local food and farming festival… http://www.diginfestival.com Thank you so much for sharing your journey in words, including this phase too. It is really courageous and thought provoking.

  20. Dan Rivera Says:

    To increase chances for success, I think you have to start with saving enough money to buy a farm or land outright and not go into debt at all to make a good start of it. You also need to be flexible in the location because there is plenty of farmland available cheap if you’re willing to be a pioneer in a new area. “If you build it, they will come.” Communities can be built this way but take time. We should stress that small farming needs to be a long term investment where we place value not only on financials, but on quality of life and quality of healthy food.

  21. Wow…I feel bad for your failed “experiment” however this is written from a very one sided point of view. While I have not tried to be a farmer and make a living, I HAVE been an intern/cook making less than minimum wage and worked my way up through 22 years to were I am now. Calling it quits after only 3 years? Work is hard. Money is not always great. Passion is why we do it. Working hard for that sense of accomplishment, knowing that you’re doing good.

    You start off by saying “I began Dissertation to Dirt hoping to answer a single question: can young Americans make a career of farming?” Good question. It is no doubt that many have looked to your work to answer this very same question. I know many farmers that started as you had and, while not millionaires, are now living humble lives doing what they feel is right.

    You go on to declare “Young people cannot reasonably have careers in farming in America.” Seriously? I can name half a dozen young farmers in my area right now that are doing it. Passionate about it. Loving it. Again, not because the money is good, (it is not), but because they know they are a part of something bigger. The reshaping of our broken food system.

    I’ll be honest, I was upset when I finished reading this. A colleague forwarded it to me. I’ve never felt like a preacher, but it’s clear by the comments this post has received that your “verdict” has negatively impacted several aspiring farmers. Please revisit your synopsis of this “experiment” of yours and find some positive examples of other young farmers that ARE making it and share with your followers. I doubt I’ll see this comment posted. While I do wish you well, There are a lot of positive examples out there.

  22. In comment to William, I know the farmers you’re referring to.
    Either one of them work at a job outside the farm or they have and do have extended family members who have helped them purchase their property. Also they have gotten into farming before the local market was saturated. These BIG issues are the major stumbling blocks for the new, young farmer, not just “hard work”. It’s not that the money is “not good”, it’s just not sustainable, unless of course you have an outside job or family underwriting your mortgage.
    I must add that chefs are some of the most difficult customers to deal with. They want perfect product at a low ball price, this attitude mimics that of our culture, we are not willing to pay the true price for our food. All of these issues were outlined most eloquently in this article.

  23. George William Heubel Says:

    I was looking at William Heubel’s web site and saw his posting. I went to his link for your “Last Chapter” posting and read it. Before I was finnished reading it I had tears running down my face and still do as I type this. So sad for America. Dad

  24. I just want to say to everyone, this is sad BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE UP YOUR DREAM. THERE IS A SOLUTION. I’m not a schemer or a scammer–I am a 64 yr. old woman who was a single parent for 17 1/2 years. My dream since forever has been to own my own small farm. Just a non-profit organization, with 1 acre, and an urban (or surburban) demonstration garden. To live with my son again (in separate houses–he has a girlfriend) and grow our own food.
    I work at my own home-based business. It’s not what you think..and we don’t go around and “sell stuff.” We could all work together, no matter what state you’re in (or Canada) & all have a steady, recurring, residual income, month after month after month…for services you are paying for anyway, month after month.
    Because of this economy, land is still “cheap”, but the big agrabusinesses are buying it up, and perpetuating conventional agricultural practices AND DESTROYING OUR MOTHER EARTH. We need that land to help people–like you–have small, family-owned farms. We need sustainable practices and small local farms all over the US, and we need to help people statr backyard gardens to secure a safe food supply.
    This is a business that is aREAL business–sell-able, & will-able. You build it now, and your children will never have to worry about getting a job. I’m talking about gnerational wealth. And not something you do forever–just 2 or 3 years, and you will be free to live your dream! I am building this for my son, who has congenital heart defect and has had 2 operations (he’s 29 now and doing fine.) If you can be open-minded enough to think outside the box, to be willing to look at something different, for 20 minutes, I can show you a way to get what you want. Please don’t give up yet! There is a way! Email me or call me–when can you jump on the web for 20 minutes? 509 954 4479 garden of lia at yahoo Namaste
    PS: WA has land, from the 51 yr. old farmers you described, that they are GIVING AWAY to people who will work that land. I do not want to live in WA any longer. i want to get out of this frozen hell-hole and live somewhere again I can garden almost all year’round. I f we all work together, we can do it! I most certainly hope I hear from you! I can guarantee you, it won’t be a waste of your time. i hate wasting my time. We can all have our dream.

  25. I have been working in the Sustainable Agriculture field for both non-profit and for profit organizations for over 8 years now and I’m having a hard time staying motivated in the movement. I would love to have my own farm yet I know what is ahead as I’ve already seen it happen to everyone else I know. I am so depressed over the state of things, glad to know I’m not the only one.

  26. I agree that chefs can be tough to deal with but they have margins like farmers. And they too are dealing with a public used to cheap food. I feel more and more that things are going to have to collape before they will get better. That’s why knowing how to grow your food and having cultivated a network of people who feed you is a wise investment. People have doctors, lawyers, estheticians, mechanics, trainers, dog walkers, hairdressers etc – everybody really needs a farmer.

  27. @S White Thank you for the comment back, however you do not know the farmers I am talking about. These are farm workers that do not own land, rather are being paid a wage just like the author of this post was and had to call it quits after 3 years. The quote I believe was:

    “As farm workers, we earned between $8.50 and $10.00 an hour. And as farm managers, we earned $11.50. And…that’s it. ”

    When I was just starting out, I was working 3 jobs trying to make ends meet. It takes FAR more than 3 years to know if you can make it in farming. And I am saddened that this post by “Dissertation to Dirt” has negatively impacted some of our young farmer friends. Yes, it is about how hard the work is. Sorry, but I must disagree with you.

  28. Just found this blog that so speaks to me. Thank you for sharing your experience. You speak the words I want to say in a beautiful and concise way. I live with a farmer and have been committed to the life for 10 years now. We don’t own land. The financial aspects of this business are harder than the rocks in the field.
    And there is so much support from the community, near and far. The “movement” is huge and grows. Still, I worry about the future. We’re in our 50s and it’s not getting easier.

  29. I am the farmer mentioned in Candi Edmondson’s post. I have been farming small scale 10-25 acres vegetables for 25 years. 12 years into it I was at the same place, ready to give up, but took a job as a farm manager that paid reasonable wages so I could save enough to buy the equipment that I felt I needed to get to a new level. It dosen’t pencil out properly it’s true. I work far to many hours. I think I’m becoming sort of dull actually. But I can’t imagine not farming. I grew up on a cranberry farm, went to art school. Surprised myself by getting back into farming.
    The stories I hear of success have as many dissimilarities as similarities. Everyone’s path in is so unique. It’s hard for me to encourage young farmers with little experience of this sort of work, but I do nonetheless hoping that their creativity and resourcefulness will pull them through.
    I agree with comments above that 3 years is not enough time. I suspect you’ll be back in some form or another. Farming can look like a thousand different things-stay open. I hold a certain image in my mind what it all looks like (or will). Daily however, I face the reality of how far off the goal still is. Not sure I’ll get there, but at least I’m going toward it.

  30. Dear young farmers,
    I agree that three years is not enough time to decide if you really want to be a farmer. Farming is a vocation. If you think you’re going to get rich doing it think again. My husband came from a farming family, but because we wanted to farm organically, we were left to figure it out on our own. For the past 20 years we have tried everything to make our organic farm work. We have travelled thousands of miles to farmers markets with 3 small children, raided these children’s college funds and have lived without a lot of things that our friends have. We have had to reinvent ourselves 4 times and finally we took outside jobs just so we could keep farming. If you are going to make it in this industry, you have to de romanticize it and realize that it is a lot of hard work and sacrifice. We look for young farmers to mentor but they are impatient and can’t wait to be in charge. Sorry but our workers that have been with us for 20 years, are her to teach you, not take orders from you.
    Be humble, be patient, There are a lot of us “old farmers” that would love to share what we learned the hard way with you.

  31. Excellent blog right here! Also your site rather a lot up fast!
    What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your affiliate hyperlink for
    your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours
    lol

Leave a Reply

*