We’re going to quit farming.
(At least for a while.)
I’ve been thinking for a long time how to write this post, because for those of you that aren’t in the sustainable agriculture world, it might be confusing, what we’re doing.
So, I am going to explain a typical small(er) sustainable or organic farm so you can better understand our next move.
From our experience, most farmers out this way are young. Definitely under 40. Many of them went to college, studying permaculture, or sustainable agriculture, or sustainable development. Passionate and with a desire to provide good food, they may work on farms for a few years, and then decide to start their own. The trouble is, with college debt and no money, they have to get a farm credit loan to buy this land.
From there, they immediately need help, because most farms are large, trying to make more income. So they get loans on tractors. They have to hire 3 or 4 apprentices to help them accomplish all the transplanting, weeding, and harvesting. The trouble is, due to the fact that farms bigger than an acre or two require lots of work but don’t truly generate proportional extra income for the farmers themselves, they can’t necessarily afford to pay their interns a living wage. The farmers don’t even make a living wage, if you were to divide out their labor into an hourly pay.
So most farmers provide food, education, and some sort of housing to compensate for the low pay offered (think two to four dollars an hour). The housing is normally not great. I’ve shared my beef with that.
Daniel and I made this move out to work on a farm, because we were tired of the city. He wanted to get more experience farming full-time. We spent several years saving up a down payment so we could get our own land.
We went over the summer to get pre-approved for a loan. And we were denied, because Daniel’s paycheck is laughably small. It didn’t matter about our down payment – they just looked at his paystub. And graciously said “Sorry, no.”
The trouble is, you can’t save up and buy a farm while working on a farm. There is no way. There are very few farmers that pay a living wage to their employees, because they simply can’t.
Because Daniel and I are so committed to being debt free, we were left with two options. 1) Continue to farm while I work, thus majorly pushing back our farm-buying date, but still giving Daniel experience. Or 2) both work typical jobs, pushing up our farm buying date, but losing the skill of daily agricultural work.
After a lot of discussion, a lot of prayer, a lot of tough decision making, we picked option two.
We need mental rest. Living communally on a farm with strangers is really tough, as I’ve shared before. We know that living 45 minutes to an hour away from a decent restaurant and music is not our style.
The choice was really 1) do we have a complicated, difficult living situation, far away from a cultured population where we have no way of making friends or 2) do we live back in a town where yes, we won’t be farming anymore but will provide a way for us to have our own farm sooner? After the initial shock, the answer was clear.
So we’re moving. In a week.
To the great city of Asheville. Where we can eat Indian food. And see every great band ever, because apparently this city of 80,000 people is music mecca. Where everyone and their mom is committed to eating well, eating ethically, and where on weekends there are always events like “Make your own vinegars!” and “Building a cob pizza oven in your backyard.” I like vinegar. I like pizza even more.
And like, we’re going to live in a regular apartment. With a bathroom in it.
In a way, it feels like we took two steps back and now one forward, but it is a step forward. We’re ready to live not the way we want for a few years, so that while we’re young and wild we can buy a farm and work it and enjoy it debt-free. I’m willing to wait.
And the idea of a hot bath every now and then is pretty tempting, too.