Community Philosphy Blog and Library

The Work Ahead

Shannon Hayes’ latest blog post at Yes! Magazine. Join the ongoing conversation with Shannon in the Radical Homemakers group here on

May hits us like an ice water dousing on a drowsy morning. It is simultaneously shocking and deeply refreshing. Winter’s leisurely breakfasts are suddenly a thing of the past: Bob and I scarcely have time to join each other for a cup of coffee before we find ourselves on our hands and knees weeding asparagus, donning nets to check on the beehives, pounding posts to trellis new grape vines, digging holes for new fruit trees, or heading down to the farm to make sausage before the farmer’s market starts. I help my dad vaccinate the sheep and bag fleeces for the mill; he examines the flock for parasites, moves the broilers out to pasture, checks the fences, hauls hay bales to the cattle to tide them over until the pastures are amply lush, and monitors the grasses and our very pregnant ewes. My mom faces an endless barrage of dishes to wash following our luncheon feasts (made larger to accommodate our springtime appetites), handles the incoming meat orders, and helps us care for the girls. But despite all our activity, we still feel as though we are in the calm before the storm that will hit when lambing season officially begins. All other away-from-home plans are subject to the whims of nature as our family readies to welcome the spring crop of newborns.

Thankfully, the commencement of lambing season also rings in the official start of our summer internships, with one or two students interested in a future in small farming joining us to share the labor and learn how the farm operates. Our relationships with these students often grow very close; over the years they’ve become a colorful web of extended family, delighting us with their ongoing adventures. This year, we have been particularly excited to welcome back a returning, much-adored second-year intern, as well as a new student from one of the state agricultural colleges. Our newest recruit comes from a small family farm that she has chosen to revive, and she is faced with the challenge of proving to her father that it can provide a livelihood before he’ll turn over the reins. Her internship with us is the final requirement for completing a four-year degree in agricultural business, and a springboard for initiating her own family farm renaissance.

New Farmers
New Crop of Farmers

Photo essay: Meet the farmers of America’s future.

Thus, we were surprised when, a few weeks ago, she visited my parents with an awkward message from her college adviser. Blushing and avoiding eye contact, she reported, “My adviser says I’m supposed to explain to you that I’m a good student.” When asked to explain the meaning behind her message, she reported (to paraphrase), “He says I’m supposed to be learning how to run a farm, not to do grunt work.”


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