As a small start up farm there are so many different hats I wear. You could break it down into these three, entrepreneur, manager, and technician.
The entrepreneur is long sighted, visionary. Focused on what the big overall vision for the farm is, what the future looks like, and how to get there. The manager is the one who is making orders, filing taxes, organizing work days and the bigger things involved in any small business or farm. And the technician is the one on the ground. He’s the one getting up at 5:30 in the morning to get feed and water to the animals. He’s got the tools to take apart and put back together the watering system for chickens, the knowledge of how to build the necessary structures for animals pens, and the one doing the small day to day things.
All of these positions need adequate time to themselves or it gets unbalanced. If I spend too much time (this happens in the winter!) planning and thinking long term about the farm, things can get a little too fantastical and I forget the reality of where they are. If I spend too much time book-keeping and blogging and organizing but I’m not on the ground enough doing the daily chores than animals don’t get the attention they need and things go down hill. Likewise, if I spend all my time in the field being the technician than I can get bogged down doing all the little things but forget the bigger things like managing or thinking long term.
Remembering to be all three of these can be challenging but articulating their different roles is helpful for remembering to balance them out and spending the right amount of time in each role.
The summer time is definitely the time when I am more the technician and there is lots of in field work, waterers that need fixing, chickens that need moving, tomatoes that need pruning and harvesting and collecting eggs. In the winter the much needed break gives way to running numbers and reading collected data from the summer. It’s a time of revision and strengthening passion for the new year. A time to relax and remember why I’m in this, what I’m doing it for. Sometimes I get a little ahead of myself and think a little too big, that’s okay, that’s life.
The manager is sometimes the harder one to be. Remembering to order feed and scheduling deliveries, organizing events and managing volunteers.
Like most people I didn’t get into farming because I like book-keeping, or blogging, or balancing a check book. I got into it because it was the most holistic life style I could think of. It involved the mind, body and soul in one work place. It was working with your hands, your heart and your mind. It was working so closely with the ground, from which we were formed. Being so close to life and death, seeing the baby chick hatch, and burying the dead calf. Raising chickens for the purpose of slaughter, to maintain life and than to kill it. To see the sacrifice that really goes into life. Eating meat, eating nourishing food. Something has to die for something else to live. It’s a humbling place to be, and some days it’s hard. Somedays its just sitting down and crying because it is so, so hard. Most days it’s waking up in a place of thankfulness. Thankful for what I get to do. The part I get to play in this world—the position I get to have in this society. Raising nourishing food for families and communities. It’s a work that I can feel good about doing. At the end of the day I am not questioning the ethics or morality of what I’m doing. I know in my heart that this is right. That what I’m doing is wholesome and good. And ultimately that’s what I long for. A life full of wholeness and goodness. Holistic living. Working hard, and playing too. Long hours on the farm, and times of relaxing and away from the farm. Time for relationships and community. For living and dreaming and loving. That’s what I want.
These two quotes from The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry mean a lot to me and I’ll place them here because I think they relate a lot to how I feel and what I’m doing.
“A competent farmer is his own boss. he has learned the disciplines necessary to go ahead on his own, as required by economic obligations, loyalty to his place, pride in his work. His workdays require the use of long experience and practiced judgement, for the failures of which he knows he will suffer. His days do not begin and end by rule, but in response to necessity, interest, and obligation. They are not measured by the clock, but by the task and his endurance; they last as long as necessary or as long as he can work. He has mastered intricate formal patterns in ordering his work within the overlapping cycles—human and natural, controllable and uncontrollable—of the life of a farm.”
“..That is because the best farming requires a farmer— a husband-man, a nurturer— not a technician or businessman. A technician or a businessman, given the necessary abilities and ambition, can me made in a little while, by training. A good farmer, on the other hand, is a cultural product; he is made by a sort of training, certainly, in what his time imposes or demands, but he is also made by generations of experience. This essential experience can only be accumulated, tested, preserved, handed down in settled households, friendships, and communities that are deliberately and carefully native to their own ground, in which the past has prepared the present and present safeguards the future.”