“A farm includes the passion of the farmer's heart, the interest of the farm's customers, the biological activity in the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm -- it's everything touching, emanating from, and supplying that piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism.” – Joel Salatin
If you’ve ever read my blog, you’re no doubt familiar with my lifelong relationship with farming. Farming has always been more than a profession for me. It’s been, at once, a passion, an obsession, and a puzzle with answers that constantly change. The rewards in farming are great (though not necessarily always in the financial sense), but the challenges are unending. I recently described the process of growing hay to a student working on a school project. When I was finished describing how fickle Mother Nature can be – how she can destroy even the most beautiful hay crop in a matter of minutes – I almost felt like the bearer of bad news.
It’s true, though. Running a farm requires a forfeiture of control and a stomach for disappointment; an understanding that your success or failure is equal parts in your hands and the oftentimes fickle hands of nature. This would be enough to scare most people off from the thought of ever wanting to call themselves a farmer, and understandably so. Everyone with a job has enough stresses to worry about. Having Mother Nature as your boss is the last work arrangement most of us would want to enter into.
But then there are the gifts. Those moments that keep you coming back after a day of broken hydraulic lines, blisters, and a rained on crop of hay. The feeling of the sun on your back as you pass back and forth rhythmically through the field, raking alfalfa. What’s left when that sun disappears – the quiet, cool, dark solitude you experience as you pick up bales at midnight in July. The satisfaction of providing a product that meets the basic needs of living things. And, for many in the profession, the company of the spirits of generations past.
I will always be the greatest advocate I can be for young and future farmers. If they ask me, I will tell them that there are no guarantees of success in the profession – only the promise that when it happens, it will provide a satisfaction that is pure and profound. For me, that’s always been enough.