When we moved from Loveland, Colorado to Tucson, Arizona I breathed a little sigh of relief as I left behind the 8 sets of raised beds, my flock of egg layers, my hoop house and modified chicken tractor for raising meat chickens, and the two pet goats and the electric fencing I’d used to help them keep our acre and a half of pasture mowed. It was a lot of work and emotional investment trying to grow as much food as I could on our 2.84 acres and I was a little tired. I really thought that I wouldn’t miss the walk over to the chicken coop in the snow, or trying to drain the hoses I used to fill the goats water trough so that they wouldn’t freeze, or putting on a headlamp, my boots, and my farm coat to tramp out at 10 pm because I’d heard a sound and I just wanted to be sure everyone was safe.
Well, actually I don’t miss those things. But without them, I can’t have all the things that I really do miss. I miss the warm breath of my goats as they came to greet me, no matter how cold it was. After an argument with my husband (because we all have those) or a hard day at the computer, the goat pen or the chicken coop was where I went to cool down or get a little perspective. And every plastic tomato I eat from the grocery store across the street reminds me of what sunshine tastes like when you grow vegetables for eating, not shipping. And those meat chickens? Yeah, figuring out how to keep the bears from eating them before they were grown and I could put them in my freezer was really a pain. But I’ve not had such a tasty chicken since.
It’s those things that have me asking myself the question now, “When is it too late to grow up to be a cowgirl?” And who better to ask than all of you? I’ve started by making a list of the questions I think I’d need to answer, like:
• What would my land base look like, and where would it be?
I have all kinds of ideas from leasing to using open space in the city as part of a larger neighborhood urban farming project. (Maybe not Tucson because it’s so hot and dry.) What would you tell someone to do? Where would you think of starting?
• What would I raise?
Poultry are a good starting point, but how many would I have to raise to get a start? How about rabbits, hogs, or my personal favorite, cows? There are lots of great books out there, even like the most recent from Rebecca Thistlethwaite with tips that could be helpful.
• What’s my market and how would I serve it best?
Veal and rabbits for for restaurants? Poultry for me? How do I find the people who would buy it all?
These are questions we all ask, whether starting from scratch, or just thinking about expanding and being more successful. Forrest Pritchard gets the conversation going with this week’s “How to Start Your Own Farm.” The last “Rule” he shares is “Read. Ask Questions. Share Your Knowledge.” So how about we do that here? Our On Pasture authors, like Chip Hines, Jim Gerrish, Troy Bishopp, Sandy Miller and Greg Judy, I’d love to hear your take on this. Meg G. – you’re working on getting started. What would you share? And to all of you out there – what are your tips and hints, or the questions that you’d like to have answered?
That’s the good thing about this On Pasture Community we’ve got going. It’s a great place for us all to ask and share ways to be happier, more sustainable farmers and ranchers.
Thanks for reading and participating!
Kathy and Rachel
I hope it’s never too late to be a cowgirl! I still have it on my bucket list and have every intention of getting to that goal – even though I am past the mid-century mark alreeady by a few years. So thanks for the great photo ( you look great on a Scot Highlander!) and the ruminations on how good it is to farm – despite the cold, frozen pipes, frozen eggs, lambs, kids etcc. It also helps one maintain a deep appreciation for how hard it is to grow good healthy food. Maybe if more folks in this world turned their attention to doing this instead of squabbling over the diminishing resources and power struggles, we’d have less violence and more beauty and more food for all?
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