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how to start up a small farm: five lessons learned

June 14, 2011

I'll admit it. There was one day in my life when I actually was a farmer princess and Emmett was a farmer prince: our wedding day. Do we get "points" for a DIY wedding, and for actually having used the pitchfork in this picture?

OK, so I’ll be honest. The real reason I’m writing this post is because I got my first negative review on Amazon. It’s not the negativity of the review that annoys me, but rather the fact that the reviewer seems to think he knows more about my start-up farm than I do, and also has a knack for taking quotes out of context. (The reporter in me finds this habit particularly grating.)

Oh, and he also actually seemed to enjoy the book, and called it a “good read,” but then went into a five paragraph critique because apparently I’m not a real farmer. Or because I’m a bad farmer who is incapable of feeding the masses. Or because I’m too good of a farmer and experienced “quick success.” (Quick success?! I wish.) Or something. His dislike of me is evident, but the reasons for his dislike remain unclear, at least to me. Maybe you’ll have better luck understanding his point of view.

Regardless of exactly what got this guy’s goat, I’d like to take this opportunity to turn the bad review into something positive and use it as an excuse to talk about the mechanics of starting up a small farm from scratch. Without further ado, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned over the past 4 years, and some clarifications about how we got our own small farm going.  After hearing our story, are we “elite” “affluent post adolescents” as reviewer H. Laack stated?  You be the judge.

Lesson #1 — A farm is a small start-up business. Treat accordingly.

When starting up a small business, the entrepreneur — be they farmer, restauranteur, aspiring CEO or shopkeeper — should have some money saved up. Or have good enough credit to secure a loan, or enough confidence to convince investors of the bright future of the business. Because no brand-new business that I know of will actually earn you any kind of a living for the first few months, and may not achieve profitability for a year, or even years, after inception… if at all.

(Hint: now is a good time to move back in with your parents, if they haven’t yet converted your former bedroom into an office/craft room/storage space/nordic-track-gym.)

Since I have an obvious tendency towards memoir, here’s Foggy River Farm’s startup story:

I worked during college as a TA and then Head TA, which meant that I was often bone-tired, grumpy, exhausted, caffeinated, and never had any time off. (I’m frankly shocked that my relationship with Emmett survived this period, but it was good training for farming.) However, it also meant that I wasn’t dependent on my single mom, and I was — by living meagerly — able to actually save money for the latter part of college rather than accumulate debt. As Head TA, I had a certain number of credits allotted to me per quarter as part of my payment package. I never took classes above the allotted amount, so I didn’t have to take out loans to pay for my Master’s degree.

Because I was only attending school part-time, Emmett graduated a year before I did. After graduation he worked for Stanford Dining Services, and for two years we both lived in fabulously affordable housing that we shared with many (perhaps too many) other colleagues. For one of those years, we lived in a fraction of a garage that had been “converted” into a “bedroom.” There were rats in the walls. I once woke up screaming because I had a nightmare that rats were crawling across my face, a dream that was probably generated by the nightly sound of rats scrabbling around in the wall right next to my head.

In wintertime, tragically, one of the rats in the wall died, and dead-rat-smell leaked out of the electrical socket just above our mattress. Dead-rat-smell is strangely similar to the scent of urine, and I accused Emmett of peeing in the bed for several nights before I realized what the smell actually was. (Duct tape over the socket solved that problem perfectly.)

I also might add here that Emmett’s the sort of person who won’t spring for a sleeper car on a multi-day train trip. In fact, he’s the sort of person who will refuse on principle to pay the overpriced cost of train food, and will instead drink cold soup, purchased in advance, straight out of a carton. True story.

(Hint #2: This is the sort of person that makes a very good farmer. You think that potato’s too rotten to eat? Cut a piece of it off and try again.)

So anyway, after we were both done with school, and finished with the temporary internship-type jobs that we held for six months after school, we had a tidy sum of money in our respective savings accounts. We spent some of it traveling around New Zealand, but since we were wwoofing and living on the cheap, upon our return we still had plenty to fund our farming venture and pay the bills while we got off the ground. We moved into Emmett’s well-preserved childhood bedroom and got to work.

(Side note: our savings accounts have never recovered to pre-New Zealand levels, except at the end of the Fall, which is before we live off of savings until Spring. But we are currently able to live off of our on-farm income combined with my 20 hour/week newspaper job, and are continuing to grow the business each year. I’m pretty sure my boss would get mad if I noted how much I make at the newspaper, so let’s just say that while reporting is about as lucrative as farming, the paycheck does keep coming in the winter.)

Lesson #2 — How to secure land: or, everyone is lucky/unlucky.

Emmett and I are incredibly lucky to be able to farm and live on property that has been in the family for three generations: we know that. But you don’t have to have family with property to be granted the use of the land. It takes relationships, certainly, but not necessarily blood ones. The Kimballs (as told in Kristin’s memoir, The Dirty Life) had a family friend who offered to let them farm the land. Many of our farmer friends in Sonoma County have similar arrangements; some do pay long-term lease fees, while others are simply gifted the use of a property for sustainable agriculture purposes or are leasing the land for $1 per year. There are often ads on Craigslist looking for farmers to cultivate a property owner’s acreage in exchange for providing the landowner with food.  Some farmers I know work for an hourly salary (woah — more than minimum wage!) in exchange for tending a restaurant or winery’s farm.

Of course, there are huge challenges associated with these arrangements. Some farmers have to piece together multiple “free lease” (or low-cost-lease) properties in order to garner enough acreage to make ends meet, and considerable time is spent commuting between those properties. Others pay rent without knowing how long they’ll be able to stay on the land. While negotiating for a long-term lease is ideal, it’s not always feasible, and we know farmers in this county who have been suddenly unseated from the property they’ve farmed for years. Land is insanely expensive to purchase, and farming doesn’t make much money (see Lesson #4 below), so it’s hard to put a down payment on property, let alone pay the mortgage and property taxes after purchase.

But there are also challenges to successional farming. You think business negotiation and long-term planning is hard? Try throwing family dynamics into the mix. In our case, the family property is currently supporting two separate agricultural enterprises which sometimes work well together and sometimes not so much. We have about 1/2 acre of permanent veggie space, and our other 2 1/2 acres is temporarily fallow vineyard — which means we have to install new irrigation, as well as amend and improve the soil every year, and then bid that section of field farewell at the end of the season.

And farmers with family property can be suddenly unseated from the land, just as tenants can. You might think that Prop 13 means everyone with land lives free and easy… but if siblings are bought out (as must often happen in an agricultural enterprise), Prop 13 doesn’t apply and property taxes shoot up. Also, estate taxes do apply, and they apply at the current appraised market value of the land. I’ve spoken with multi-generational farmers who’ve put in decades farming the family property only to lose “their” land either because siblings forced a sale (ouch!), or because they couldn’t afford the estate taxes when a parent passed on.

(Note: land has no value — beyond production value, which is a tiny fraction of its “market value” — unless it is sold. So how do you pay the estate or property taxes without selling the property? Or how do you afford to buy your siblings out? It’s almost as tricky as purchasing land in the first place.)

I guess the overall lesson here is: land issues apply to everybody, whether they are property owners, inheritors or tenant farmers. There is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to land, and someone with access to “free” land may seem incredibly lucky for years only to lose the property suddenly and stunningly. Here at Foggy River Farm, we are well aware that we need to continue to grow our operation to contribute to property taxes, and that’s a major concern for the future of our farm.  (By the way, on the how-to side, there are organizations such as California Farmlink working on finding solutions to at least some of these problems — if you’re a farmer in California seeking land to farm, start there.)

Lesson #3 — “Expensive” is relative.

There’s expensive, and there’s expensive. And if you’re going to farm, as mentioned in #1, you need access to significant startup funds. I’m referring to the book review here, in which the reviewer notes that we were somehow able to afford “relatively expensive” replacements for some of the problems we faced during our first year farming. Specifically, when our chickens died, we bought new chicks. And when our tomatoes-from-seed died, we bought bulk tomato seedlings.

I would argue that while 30 chicks times $3 = $90, that is not relatively expensive. It’s relatively cheap. I’m not saying that $90 isn’t a lot of money — it certainly is when we’re talking about things we don’t need, like a night on the town or a cute new sweater. But compare that $90 to the $3,000+ we invested on our BCS walk-behind tractor (after using a borrowed Rototiller for a year), or the $4,000+ we spent on our Craigslist Toyota pickup (purchased after realizing that it’s impossible to operate with 1 station wagon between 2 farmers), and it’s small potatoes. Ditto the cost to fortify the failed chicken coop, which was constructed largely from found materials. We dumpster dive and visit the town dump’s recycling center on a regular basis.

And the $1.19 per plant that we spent on tomato seedlings after all of ours died? One half of one tomato from that future vine would more than pay for that initial investment. I’d hardly call that “relatively expensive.” In fact, as I write this, I’m half-wondering why in the heck we spend so much effort growing tomatoes from seed if we could source them for $1.19 per plant… but of course it’s because we’ve increased our tomato production by an order of magnitude since those early days. Where once we had 80 vines, now we have around 1,000. And that IS a lot of money saved, and well worth our effort.

Speaking of effort…

Lesson #4 — Not only is farming expensive and land hard to find, but you work all the time and you don’t make much money. You farm because you love growing things, raising animals, and feeding people — and are okay with these pursuits taking over your life. Don’t start a farm for the wrong reasons.

Put another way: Farming is not a romantic and pastoral pastime in which you frolic around the fields cavorting with goat kids and snuggling fuzzy lambs. Farming is dirty, exhausting, body-breaking, bank-breaking and stress-inducing. You’re entirely dependent on things that only a crazy person would trust, like the weather or the willingness of an 1,800 pound horse to pull your potato harvester. If you make money, you pour it back into the farm.

Of course, farming is magical too. But ask any magician and they’ll tell you that it requires a heck of a lot of planning, special equipment, effort and knowledge to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Lesson #5: Success is relative, too. As a farmer, you must define it your own way.

(Hint #3: Farmers do not define success by fancy clothes, nice cars, vacations taken, or clean homes. If they did, they would doom themselves to perpetual failure.)

OK, it’s confession time: I Google-stalked my negative reviewer because he has a very unusual name (and, well, apparently I’m a creepy author.)  I’m pretty sure he’s a farmer in Wisconsin, which surprised me.  He’s a farmer, and he thought my first season was a “comparatively quick success”!

But I suppose different farmers have different versions of success, partly because we all face very different challenges.  Was our first season a success?  Perhaps, if “not fatally crushed under a tractor” and “not failing so miserably that you quit altogether” is your definition of success.  Yet in my eyes our first season was a failure in terms of effective crop management, effective livestock management, and money earned versus money invested.  Still, Emmett and I realized it was a starting point and therefore didn’t judge ourselves too harshly, assuming that over time, we’d learn from our mistakes and earn back our initial investment.

And as for feeding our community, I think that we succeeded even that first year, despite Mr. Laack’s misgivings.  We fed friends, neighbors, Food Pantry-goers, and farmers market shoppers.  This year, we’re feeding 50 families through our CSA, and countless more through the farmers market. Our CSA customers are mostly working families, just like us, and last year we were able to provide them with produce at 20% off market price… plus give them access to “free you-pick” tomatoes and basil for canning and preserving. I think that counts as feeding “the rest of us,” or at least I hope so.

In the end, I have a hunch that Mr. Laack’s problem is this:  while non-farmers read the book and think “wow, farming is hard,” farmers might read the book and think “wow, they had it easy.”  And farmers do have a tendency towards one-upsmanship. (Heck, my rat story is 100% true, but that was for SURE me trying to look as hardcore, peasant-y, and self-reliant as possible to prove that I’m an up-by-the-bootstraps kind of gal.) Also, consider that I didn’t want to write a book that was an endless complaint about the miseries of farming — no one (besides grumpy old farmers) would want to read it.

And with that, I think I’ve taken up more than my fair share of your time. Thanks for reading. To Mr. Laack, I have a genuine offer: please come out and visit the farm if you’re ever out west. Then you can judge more accurately whether we’re “fairy tale farmers,” or whether we’re hardworking souls trying to make ends meet and transcend challenges while making the most of the opportunities we’ve been given.

While I should probably bite my tongue and end on that positive note, I have to add that Prince Charming wouldn’t have known a wheel hoe from an Earthway seeder, or a beet seedling from a baby brassica. I’m guessing that princes take vacations every once in a while. Snow White probably never spent all night on an alfalfa bale fighting hay fever while keeping a laboring goat company, and while she may have been able to sweep the barn, she probably couldn’t lift an 80-pound sack of goat feed or coax milk from the udder of a disgruntled first freshening goat.

So there you have it. Here’s Princess Fairy Tale Farmer, signing off.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2011 3:20 pm

    The first thing I thought of when I read his review was “I wonder if this guy is a corn/soy farmer?” Now I know he’s a farmer and from judging by the location I might not be that far off base. A lot of farmers obtain land through family so I think it’s unfair to call you an “elitist” for doing something that is common. I’d love to be a farmer but I don’t know anyone willing to give us land because lord knows we can’t afford it. Instead I have to live vicariously through you. P.S. “Peter” has a very lovely response to Mr. Laack

  2. Peter permalink
    June 14, 2011 6:18 pm

    Hi. “Peter” here.

    I logged on to amazon with the sole purpose of writing a rave review of this book, only to find this very negative comment there. I was so mad I spent all my energy commenting on his comment instead of writing the loving review I intended. I spent like 4 hours on it (I’m an extremely slow reader/writer) so I didn’t have any time or energy left. I’m a little saddened by this and I promise to go back and write a the real review later, but I have no regrets rebutting this silly person. I’m glad others agree that he was way off his base.

    Thanks for turning your “constructive criticism” into a great blog post, Farmer Lynda!

  3. June 14, 2011 11:01 pm

    I read your book, reviewed it on my blog , and am totally confused by this guy’s criticism. I never once felt that you were romanticizing farming with bucolic images of traipsing through fields found only in children’s books. In fact, I kept wondering how you guys were able to press through the bad stuff. I totally admired your perseverance in the face of miniscule, if any, profits. A lot of folks would throw in the towel, label themselves a crappy veg grower, and run back to jobs with secure paychecks. I think this guy might be a tad jealous of your youthful successes. hell, i know i am :) (in a good way)

  4. Elizabeth N. permalink
    June 16, 2011 6:34 am

    When I finished reading your book – which I found at the library – I went on Amazon to buy my own copy and write a review. I was totally shocked at his review. It was almost like he expected you to keep failing at farming and obviously this guy has never looked for land to start a farm on. I too recieved help for my farm land from my grandfather. My husband and I are both 29 years old and own a landscape and irrigation company in Florida that we started in 2004. We lived in town and bought 3.5 acres on a main road in Samsula for the business. When the economy took a turn for the worst we had to short sale our home in town and move to the farm in a smaller house. This is when my grandfather help me pay off the farm so I wouldn’t have to worry about moving anymore or having to make a mortage payment. Most of the farmers in my area have had the land in their families for years so they can afford to farm the land and still make a profit. With out my grandfathers help I could not of paid the mortgage with farming. I have some friends that are my age that farm in the next town to the south and they are “borrowing” the land from the owner. But they are worried that the owner could take back the land and they would be farmless because they can’t afford to buy any land. In your case your husbands parents helped with the land and in my cause my grandfather – sorry we were lucky and had help, but we shouldn’t be punished or looked at as not real farmers. Also when he talks about you buying the tomato plants – what where you suppose to do give up when the seedlings died? When you have people relying on your produce every week you have to do what you have to do. This guy reminds me of the typical customer that pisses me off…the organic produce snob – they want organic non sprayed produce but then freaks out either about the price or that there is a little chew mark on a leaf. I would rather watch my chickens eat one of my heirloom tomatoes then sell it cheaper to someone that complains about my produce. Don’t get me wrong I do make deals and give extra to my good customers that understand how much work, sweat and tears going into growing this food.

    Like I mentioned above when the economic situation changed we began selling plants at local farmers markets a couple of years ago. At first I was purely a reseller of any kind of plant under the sun, but when I brought herbs and vegetable plants I got such a great response from customers that I sold out every week. I then start growing my own herbs and vegetable plants to sell – specializing in heirloom produce. Then customers started asking when I was going to have produce for sale. So that was when I moved in to actually growing and selling the produce and fresh cut herbs. Then I figured what’s a farm without farm animals. I had been researching and wanting chickens for years now and I finally took the plunge. I recieved my 31 babies on April 4 and so far so good. I did lose three cuckoo marans – two within a three days of recieving them and the next by hawk a week ago. It is definitely a learning process but so far I love going in to the coop every morning to check on them and let them out for the day! My husband also got two pigs for the farm a month ago. My future plan is to be able to sell my extra eggs with heirloom produce at our markets. Sometimes I think that the change in the economy was a blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong I have definitely had my set backs – like stink bugs (I think) wiping out my cucumber crop and the weather (I has only rained twice since I planted the spring/summer garden) and now wildfires in the area.

    Overall thanks for a good read! I really enjoyed it! If I am every out in your neck of the woods I will have to visit your farm! I really want to go to the National Heirloom Expostion in Santa Rosa but might be too busy! Good luck with your farm and I look forward to future writings by you!

  5. June 21, 2011 1:12 am

    I just have found your blog. It’s amazing, full of information and inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Sarah permalink
    June 23, 2011 6:33 am

    Love the lessons you outlined, especially Lesson #4. This spring I had to seriously restrain myself every time someone said “Oh you live on a farm- that must be so much fun!”. Farming isn’t the worst thing in the world- the commute can’t be beat, but then again, you are ALWAYS at work. There’s no office politics, but little to no time off from 16 hour days, seven days a week. Due to corporate farm subsidies, people aren’t used to paying for the full value of their food. Because you spend a lot of time on the farm, people think you’re always around, so they don’t have to call if they are running a couple of hours late. There’s a good deal of physical labor involved and that can certainly wear a body out quickly- especially when you are on a smaller farm where more of the work is done manually instead of with expensive machinery.

    I think that many non-farmers have the image of the young shepherds sitting and watching their flock of fuzzy lambs in peace amongst beautiful meadows with a babbling brook and large stately old trees. What they don’t think about is the obnoxious/dangerous ram that helped to make those lambs possible, prolapsing ewes, pulling lambs that are poorly positioned, the care of bummer lambs that are rejected by their mothers, digging foxtails out of the eyes of the sheep in that meadow, parasite control, hoof trimming, predation, rustling, etc. Not to mention what happens to the fuzzy lambs once they’ve reached market weight.

    The reviewer doesn’t know what he is talking about- you and Emmet are very hard working, down to earth people, certainly not elitist. There are so many barriers to getting into farming, which is why the average age of the average farmer is somewhere in the high 50s I believe. Why anyone would disparage younger farmers jumping into this crazy life style is beyond me, but I suppose some people enjoy being self-appointed black clouds.

  7. July 8, 2011 7:44 pm

    surprise surprise. Young farmer receives negative, discouraging comment, and it comes from an older farmer! I get it all the time, Lynda. Just the other day a farmer in town told me and Travis we needed to move out of Texas if we wanted to have a chance at success. Farming makes you grumpy.

    But let me tell you, it sounds like that commenter didn’t really dislike your book all that much. I think he’s just pointing out that you had a situation that might not be replicable for everyone. I get that. I like to tease my readers that you and Emmett cheated by having land in your family. Still, that doesn’t negate everything you’ve gone through and all the work you’ve put in. I’m a young farmer, with no land, and I found your book useful. Brush off the haters.

  8. Julie B. J. permalink
    July 24, 2011 10:33 am

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. It’s an interesting read–so much so that I have downloaded your book, which I will share with my teenage daughter as well. You see, this year we’re getting our veggies from a local CSA. She is trying vegetables that she would have turned up her nose to before. And, since she’s currently at her father’s house, she is missing all the lovely veggies we’re getting right now. (Never fear, I’m freezing the bulk of them so we can both enjoy them this winter.) The vegetables we are receiving are beautiful! The only ones that can rival them are the ones my father grew on a ridge to feed our family. We also had chickens, rabbits and goats. I’m not sure how my parents managed all this as they both had jobs and Mom was in nursing school.
    Thanks for letting us look into your lives. I can hardly wait to read the book!

  9. July 28, 2011 11:13 am

    Hi Lynda,
    Thank you for your book! I came to your website because I just (as in a few minutes ago) finished your book and loved it. I have not read the Amazon review, but can say your book was an engaging read!

    I have a backyard garden and felt quite comforted to know that I’m not the only one that has made plenty of mistakes. Some of them, quite dumb. You are right, our generation knows practically nothing about food, and it shows when we start our gardens/farms.

    I was also taken with your description of being on the other side of the farmers’ market table, re: prices. I am a bit disgusted that many folks think nothing about spending money for flat-screen TVs or designer shoes, but will balk at paying the extra quarter for a bunch of radishes. How did our priorities get so mismanaged?

    Anyway, please keep writing and I hope to get out to your market some day; I live in the Bay Area.

    Best wishes,

  10. August 9, 2011 8:13 am

    Not to worry, you’re a Farmer. It starts in the heart. And from the farms I have lived on and the Farmers I have known, yours is the better place. You knew to call it animal husbandry in your book. So true. It used to be that way, and at your home it still is. Some day I hope to cross the U.S. and visit. Yours is an amazing story, journey and place.

  11. October 16, 2011 6:53 pm

    I just found your blog and now I must purchase your book! I remember back to the criticism I received, it was on a magazine’s website regarding an article I wrote about building chicken coops. The person who criticized me also didn’t have their facts straight and took things out of context. I wanted to comment back that perhaps she should actually read the article first then determine if it warrants the criticism she so strongly felt I deserved, but I couldn’t. :-) I enjoyed this post and am moving on to the others.

  12. October 18, 2011 10:54 am

    I have been interested in having my own farm. I could really use some of these tips. Especially your lesson 4

  13. Joe M permalink
    October 20, 2011 9:34 pm

    Where I live farming is becoming scarce. Nobody wants to do it because it requires hard work and won’t make you rich. In the old days, life was based on mere survival and taught us all we needed to know in this world. Now, society has raised everyone to become dependent upon the corporations, be lazy, and see who ca reach the top first. Today’s generation does not have the mentality to farm. Personally, I have thrown away my stinking 4 year degree in Computer Science in favor of a real job. Farming. Someday when somebody’s pulls the main breaker switch on the country, and all the electricity goes off, at least I’ll know I have food, water, milk, heat, light, and lots of family love. We do all the work. We don’t rely on the city. And THAT is the way people were meant to live. A lot of hard labor, and a little sorrow makes a better kind of happiness than what the world tries to teach us.

  14. Josh Norman permalink
    October 31, 2011 8:02 am

    Hi there,
    My wife, our 2 young daughters and I just bought a 23 acre farm in Manitoba. I have taken a leave from my government job to raise our daughters(one is 5 the other 1) and obviously to start our farm. The problem here is we are surrounded by big commercial farmers that grow their GM/modified soybeans and corn. Although I’m against that way of farming, it would be tolerable to speak to these people if they weren’t so arrogant and outspoken in regards to the way I’m farming. One half of them scoff when I tell them we would eventually like to be certified organic. The other half say, ” Why the hell do you want to farm for?” Having said that, no wonder small farms seem to be declining and why not many young people want to farm. I thought it was important to show my children a better way, or at least a more natural way to live and the actual meaningful lessons and work that can be done and taught. We moved in late summer/early fall and I can already feel the winter coming!! We’ve plowed and cultivated roughly a third of our fields with an old 1948 Ferguson(plow,cultivator, and harrows were $300!) I used some materials that were left on the property to build a chicken coop, and I’ve fenced a pasture for them to free range. Our next venture is sheep so again out come the fencing tools! We plan to milk them as we have a customer/friend who makes cheese in the city and is sick of having the milk shipped in.

    Your book sounds very interesting. I’ll be on my way to to purchase it!!

  15. America permalink
    December 27, 2011 6:59 pm

    Wow, thank you for posting your story. I really admire you both for being such a great example.
    My goodness, I had no clue on how hard it really is to be a farmer, especially if one dont have what it takes to go through the whole works thanks for your story, and God bless your harvest to be fruitful in Jesus name!

  16. January 3, 2012 11:55 am

    He’s probably just a farmer who’s struggling and can never do what you are doing—beginning your farming endeavor with passion and commitment and making it work as a business—let alone write about it, so it makes him crabby!

  17. Deb K permalink
    January 7, 2012 10:52 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Lynda! Looking forward to new ones.

  18. dennis& jamie mcgrath permalink
    January 13, 2012 8:46 pm

    Im a contractor in ny state and i to am a city boy but moved hear 8 years ago and I need to do somthing new for a living (the barn is 600′ x 45′ yes 600′)and was an old cow farm we love garding so im thinking of going in to farming so kodos to youand remember to eat trash and feed the world

  19. dennis& jamie mcgrath permalink
    January 13, 2012 8:49 pm

    kodos to you email us with new stuff

  20. Daniel permalink
    February 10, 2012 6:54 am

    You’re both probably too young to remember this, but for anyone who isn’t, this is my tidbit of bucolic nostalgia:

    “Green Acres is the place for me!
    Farm livin’ is the life for me!
    Land spreadin’ out so far and wide,
    Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!”

    Ah…the more things change, the more things stay the same. Good Lord, I feel old…>_<

    But in all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed your work, and your writing. As an English major, I can appreciate the art by which you express your thoughts (and your righteous indignation at unjustified criticism, which you valiantly restrain). Not only that, I can actually sympathize with most of what you wrote here, largely as a result of my own recurrent thoughts of "Well, if I'm gonna be dirt poor, I may as well just $*#& it all and live on a farm, instead of selling soul to Corporate America."

    Then I actually learned something about the farming life, and fled the idea faster than the first cow I ever tried (unsuccessfully) to milk.

    In hindsight, this was my own fault, and while I do not blame the hapless creature, it is with utmost and all due respect that I humbly suggest an addendum for your more "agriculturally-challenged" readers:

    "Lesson #6: Children and animals are unpredictable, and expensive to maintain. But children do not have horns, do not have hooves, are rarely spooked by seeing their own shadow, and only infrequently do they stampede, devolving into a nigh-unstoppable, single-minded horde of inexorable and unholy fury, meting out ungodly and unmitigated chaos, mayhem, bedlam, and destruction, trampling everything in their path, leaving naught but sorrow, terror, and woe in their wake."

    Thanks again, for an entertaining read, and keep up the good work!

  21. April 6, 2012 8:05 pm

    Love your story and info, it is very true… Have you ever looked into some niche crops that have rather large demands and ROI. For example giant pumpkin seeds can fetch $10 a seed and a giant pumpkin can have thousands of seeds in it. In fact many of the animals or crops I have found can generate over 100k per acre. I’m a specialty Ag consultant and would enjoy helping you out for free. I’m here to help individuals just like you. Feel free to give some of the information a look see on this website. The site is not very fancy but i did it for free, here is the address

    John O.

    Ag consultant

  22. May 19, 2012 10:32 am

    Great post! This is my first year farming, TA’ing and in graduate school – it’s HARD! And FUN! I’ve had my share of criticism from folks who don’t agree with my methods or have ideas of their own – but you are right in saying it’s all in how you (the farmer) measure success! Thanks for that!
    I too have been lucky in that I get to live on the farm and while that has made things easier – there are so many hurdles to jump through no matter what kind of lucky breaks you might have.
    Something I’ve also learned to let people say what they need to say, tell them what they want to hear and then go ahead and do what you’re going to do. I love my farm and everything that’s going on – or not going on for that matter. If I took all the “advice” I get, I’d be in a hot mess.
    Happy farming to you!

  23. gypsybluehomestead permalink
    December 15, 2012 5:01 pm

    Just to say, read your book, loooooooved it. The humor was refreshing and I think it gave a GREAT modern look at farming.

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