I went to a party yesterday at the jaw-droppingly beautiful home of a friend of mine. She and her husband were showing support for the local food movement here on the Central Coast. They invited a couple of local breweries to serve beer and hard cider, someone made a few really great salads, and their wood burning pizza oven was churning out delicious pizzas at a fast clip.
At one point I was standing watching the band and a goldfinch landed on my hat! I stayed super still and enjoyed the moment while everyone around me was jumping around saying “There’s a bird on your hat!”. Because I didn’t shoo it away they thought I didn’t know it was there.
At the party I found myself surrounded by people who support small farmers, and even look at them with stars in their eyes. Since I am a small farmer, it was a bit of a celebrity moment. I didn’t want to ruin it by telling my new-found admirers how hard it is to do what I do.
What a coincidence when I woke up this morning and saw this opinion piece by Bren Smith titled “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers” in the New York Times. All of the things that I wanted to say to the party guests who felt Farm Envy are very well stated by Bren here. Although she failed to point out the copious amounts of laundry this line of work creates.
I spoke to a young guy at the party who was excited to try farming and felt that he had a realistic plan to purchase a $3 million dollar ranch (300 acres) and pay for it by farming some crops, raising grass-fed beef (although he didn’t know what a steer was), and renting a barn on the property for $5k per weekend. He thought he would make the purchase with a conventional 30 yr fixed rate mortgage loan from the bank. Ok, I couldn’t let that one pass so I said something about the loan situation, but as for the rest of it? It wasn’t the right time or place to point out the holes in the plan that this young man had been dreaming about. And you have to respect that kind of enthusiasm, ambition, take-charge attitude, desire for hard work. But Bren did a great job of pointing out the challenges for me. Hopefully he sees her article.
Would I change what I do? Never. But don’t go getting all starry-eyed over it.