There’s a certain haunting feeling when I roam through an old town in rural NC. The fading signs of a once-booming tobacco market always conjure up images of times when farmers were optimistic, and saw perhaps some of the most prosperous days known to that lifestyle.
Candidly, my experience of working with conventional farm operations showed me how staggering it can be for a young person to attempt to enter farming, especially if not born into it. And those who are born into it are likely to leave the family farm, even sell the land, just to escape the hard lifestyle. And who could fault them? Modern day farming can mean having the stress of government & environmental regulations, contracting with corporations, inaccurate public perceptions, and of course dodging that age-old adversary: weather. Maybe it was growing up in a culture around folks who stuck to farm life despite these circumstances that made me want to try my hand; to see what made it all worth doing. But there seemed no feasible way for me to step into this direction. The more time passed, the more mouths to feed I became responsible for, the less likely it seemed I’d ever really have my own farm life experience. Were the hopes of first generation, wannabe farmers like me, fading like the old tobacco warehouses in those old towns I roamed? And why did I always have this feeling there was a better way to get more harvest off of small acreage?
I was not born into a farming family and for a large part of life, wanted nothing to do with farming. But fortunately, things do change as we live, grow, and experience life. I know my mind changed somewhere in there. Must have been my twenties, after I’d worked several different jobs with local farmers, both conventional and not-so-conventional. The work, the land, the people, and the unique moments, changed my perspective indelibly. In this same time period I met and married my (amazing) wife, April, who does come from a farming family. I couldn’t have known how this would impact us. Eventually, through a winding path, it brought us to a point in life where we now find ourselves excited about beginning our own farm lifestyle.
Enter JOEL SALATIN.
Causing a little controversy, Joel took his family farm, Polyface Farms, and experimented with a permaculture approach and found ways to get so much more than average out of a piece of land. Now before I type and delete a dozen lines in attempts to sound like I know what I’m talking about, let me just recommend you visit polyfacefarms.com. Also, taking a tour of their farm is worth anyone’s time whose interested in ag, the environment, whole foods, business and marketing, science, history, and….well anything worth thinking about.
Bottom line: Joel’s work made my dreams of a profitable farming life suddenly seem within reach.
So while I have to keep my main focus on my music where it belongs, I look forward to breaking this new ground with my family. We intend to try, fail, and try some more to work with our few acres to develop more of an “asset mindset”. To be folks who know what it takes to get food from the field to the table. With conventional farmers making up less than 10% of our population, maybe the best thing we can do is shoulder some of the load. And I think most of us have seen the importance of knowing where our food comes from in recent times. Some will call this Homesteading; I call it taking responsibility.