Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Do I Farm?

I recently worked with Lauren @EllebyDesign  http://www.hellolovelyworld.com/ on the new Ringer Farms logo. I found her finished product to be rather splendid. If you have design work that needs to be done you should contact her. To kick off the design process she sent me a well written questionnaire. I had utilized something similar in a past career, and it was nice to see one again. The first question was a true gem, "Why do you do what you do?"... I have to admit that the answer to this question is constantly being redefined.

I decided I wanted to be a farmer sometime in late 1997. I recognized I had made enough self destructive choices by then, and I knew I could benefit from putting half as much energy into something positive. I started reading and studying anything I could find on farming and organic agriculture. The first drawings of how I envisioned the farm were put to paper in late spring of 1999. I knew I wanted to be self sufficient and to know what I was eating. I was a fairly militant vegetarian at the time, in fact it was years before I even considered having animals on the farm. I bought the land I now farm in the spring of '05, when my daughter was just 5 months old. The first crops went in ground in the spring of '08. 

At one point I wanted to farm because I wanted the "Good Life" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_and_Scott_Nearing). I spent most of my childhood visiting my grandfather's farmette on the Mobjack Bay. I wished for my children to have that experience year round.
At another point I thought that a farm would make for a happy marriage / relationship ... ha ha ha.
And then at another point I'm sure that I thought of it as a "think global, act local / be the change you want to see in the world" act.
I'm sure there was other fantastical thinking that led me on my way, but in the end it was a conscious cocktail I decided to consume.

Farming is a lifestyle, not a career. There is no "lunch pail" portion of the job. You never really put it away. The clay, and the sun, and the non-stop cycle of life & death get into your blood and it just becomes what you do. There is no turning it off. There is no being anything else but a Farmer. Everything you see, smell, taste, and breathe is experienced through that perspective. I listen to 30-70 hours of news, audiobooks, and podcasts every week. History, science, commerce, politics, you name it, they all apply to farming. These things are embedded in every row of greens and every movement of livestock. It's all there, all the time.

This past winter I attempted to leave farming for a career that was more profitable. Three months later I was selling my soul to get my hands back in the dirt! So here I am again, wrists deep in it, and loving it. I may walk a lil' funny, far too frequently. There have been nights this year where I couldn't sleep because of excruciating sunburns. Just yesterday I weathered the rain and cold all day planting strawberries. I couldn't tell you the last time my hands were free from scratches, scabs, cuts and the enduring, but beloved, stain of caked clay. I'm a farmer; it's par for the course.

My favorite editor likes to give me grief every time I describe farming as I have above. But you can't sugar coat the realities of a dirty life. I don't make any claims that it is for everyone. In fact, I've had two interns come and go already this year. If you're sitting in front of a screen right now reading this in a perfectly designed ergonomic chair, possibly just getting back to this post after spending a few moments staring at the acoustic tile ceiling above you, in a cube of some sort or a cube with glass (office) I can dig it. I've been there. My last cube had a faux antique desk, Karistan rugs, and a tin ceiling, but I still had to sink a battleship to get an outside line. If you think my description of farming sounds harsh let me tell you I don't know how you do it. Having a barista on call and gourmet cafeteria nearby couldn't even momentarily lure me away from the land I love and the food I grow. So, go out and reward yourself tonight. If you are fortunate enough to be in RVA it's restaurant week and our fine local chefs are making bits of amazing nightly. If you are exceptionally fortunate you may even get to taste some of the local produce I delivered in the last few days. If you want to know where ... feel free to follow me on twitter @FarmerRussell

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