All of a sudden, we’re approaching our last few weeks on the farm. After spending most of the past year planning for, traveling to and working on 3 farms in New England, it’s time to start heading west soon.
While it’s still summer here, we can see the changes in seasons coming on. They happen quickly and planning for winter has begun. Luckily, we’ve stood still long enough to watch the gardens show their peas, pick them, store them and watch them dry up. Seeds are saved and extra plants are thrown to chickens. Raspberries were a daily chore to pick, beets were planted, harvested and consumed. Canning and other preserving is an everyday chore. Animals have grown in front our eyes. Rabbits bred, bunnies born. Kittens that were feral and romping in the forest finally are living in the barn.
We’ve witnessed real struggle in what seems like paradise from snapshots and short phone conversations. Small farms that are doing things the right way are up against so many odds. Animals that have rotational pasture need to be rotated. Plants that aren’t sprayed with chemicals have to be weeded, often. Humane slaughter on a very small scale might mean not being able to be USDA certified although the meat comes from an animal raised in such superior conditions compared to even mid-size farms. I’m not even talking about comparing to the factory farms which feed most of this country. Organic grain is 3 times the price of the non-GMO, non organic alternative.
These questions still remain talking points all day long around here. How can small farmers, in our current case, living on social security, afford to keep going, and how can they possibly not? Without a community that is willing to buy organic dairy, bread, and meat, there is no income from your labors. And then when you are aging or sick, there might not be enough constant help to give you the security to keep going.
Lately it’s been challenging to balance the realities of helping figure out other farmer’s struggles and still be holding onto hope that our own ventures can be successful. We’ve spent substantial time at 3 farms over the past 6 months and all have been on the brink of something beautiful and at the same time, tipping towards financial crisis. So with all the reality in our faces, how do we proceed? How do we move towards a sustainable life that affords a comfortable living in exchange for our drive and motivation. For now, it’s first things first. A few more weeks of milking goats, feeding pigs, chasing chickens, weeding gardens, baking bread and making yogurt. Hopefully a breath and another cross-country road trip will help clear the air and lead us towards a few answers.