In her piece “What Farming Isn’t” Sarah Mock shares what she learned traveling on dirt roads in Midwest farm country. Her list didn’t surprise me at all, except for no. 4: “Farming is not a choice.” She said she asked all 23 of the farmers she met what he would do if he wasn’t a farmer.
“Not a single one could think of anything they would have rather done with their lives. Not a single one had ever even thought about it. Not even once.”
Her sample size is small and since she was visiting large midwestern farms, I imagine she was talking to folks who had arrived where they were via families that had worked the land before them. So maybe they did just fall into farming. But going along with Sarah’s idea is research that says that farming is not an occupation. It is a way of life. And that’s why old farmers seldom retire. It would be like no longer being yourself.
I was interested in this idea of a choice of occupation or a way of life a lot lately. Things have happened to my husband and I in Tucson that make me think of how we can escape and do something else. Given a piece of land and the two yaks my friend Parrot says he has for me, I’d gladly head out and be myself: a farmer. Rachel does it too. Just today she told me she was looking at a farm for sale near her. Last week, she saw some cows she’d happily start a herd with. Farm dreams are the happy place we go in our heads when things are just too tough.
So what do you think? Was farming/ranching a choice for you? What would you be if you could be anything? We have a lot of readers who are in extension, NRCS, and research. Is that your version of being a farmer too? After all it takes all of us to put food on everyone’s plates!
We’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you have an idea for where I can go farm with my yaks and my husband, let me know. 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Kathy and Rachel too even though she’s not in Tucson. 🙂
The pull to ranch is strong with us. I think I have shared with you how my wife got ill and we had to sell our Wyoming ranch, move 2000 miles to north Florida and change occupations completely. Now 12 years later, in our mid to late 50’s we have nearly chucked all the Florida things, moved to Arizona where we are trying to find ranch/livestock work and are actively looking in 4 western states to buy a ranch that will support at least 50 cows. Its all VERY scary at times but we take consolation in knowing we did it once before and we hope we can do it again!
Dont know where is good for yaks but I hope you do get to get back to the land and I hope you will keep writing and sharing!
Happy trails, Mike
I work full time as a quality control inspector for a company and I also have a farm on which I raise beef cattle. For me farming was and is a choice because my farm is in Kentucky about one hour from my house in Cincinnati, Ohio. Farming though is so much more than just an “occupation” in the sense that you are in a situation where you are in total control of everything and you see your production from conception to final product. The satisfaction you get from putting all of your skills on the line, and even some you didn’t know you had, to hand that customer a steak, a breeding animal, or a head of lettuce and know the entire history involved is an unbelievable feeling that you can’t find anywhere else. I trek to my farm at least 4 days a week to seven days a week and would not give it up for anything. Some people think I am crazy but you know once see that first calf of the season hit the ground and run with mom the satisfaction you get and the awe you feel are truly one of a kind feelings you can not get any where else!
It’s funny the timing of reading your post. I am 48 years old with a full time job in agriculture and the pull to getting back to raising cattle has been incredibly strong for some time now. I live in suburban Maryland so a farm would be about an hour for me too. You are doing exactly what I am contemplating. Could I ask you some questions of how you handle some things?
Thanks for posting. It has given me hope!
Yes I could answer some questions. Contact me at Aangusccc@msn.com I will get back to as soon as I can.
Both my husband and I grew up in suburbia and chose to become farmers, even though we had no family members who farmed. We absolutely love what we do, and can’t imagine a non-farming life. We are starting to make our “retirement” plans, which consist of how do we farm differently with our aging bodies. We asked all of our guests at Thanksgiving last year what they would do if they weren’t doing the work they are currently doing (most of them are farmers). We got replies as varied as become a professional swimmer, restore chairs (?), and be a butcher, but no one plans to pursue those dreams! Kathy — come to upstate New York with your yaks! Affordable farmland, great growing conditions, good markets, and a growing community of farmers — we’d love to have you!
Thank you, Maryrose! That is so sweet! We shall see. 🙂
I would not trade being rancher and farming for any thing. My heart is in this work I love it plants and animals.
You could look at this edition of my free newsletter for info about yaks and a good place to raise them.
January 1, 2015 (look in the archives)
I have been ranching all my life and I absolutely love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I feel so grateful that I get to be out in nature and hang out with my cows on a daily basis. I have travelled a lot around the world and my greatest pleasure is visiting other farms and ranches. My husband and I always laugh about it. How many people in other vocations would visit a business similar to their own when on vacation?
My sister and I started farming when we were almost 60. We had always wanted to restart the family farm and finally decided that, if we were serious, we probably shouldn’t wait until we were 80 to get started. I guess that is a choice.
I gave up a military career half way to retirement to start farming. For me it’s is a choice.
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