Recently, someone asked me, “Did you always want to be a farmer?”
I almost spewed my coffee and said, “Lawd, no! As a teenager, I wanted to get off the farm as quickly as I could! I despised smelling like iodine and cow manure; no air conditioning and working every other weekend. I didn’t want to be tied to a bunch of smelly animals. Besides, Daddy told me not to be a dairy farmer where it’s like you’re beating your head against a brick wall…and Mama didn’t want me to go into nursing where people are sick all the time.”
“What made you come back?”
“My husband became interested in beekeeping. We loved our suburban neighborhood, but it didn’t welcome the idea of a few hives. So, when a place close to my old home became available, we jumped at an opportunity to move. It means a longer commute for work, but the location is worth it.”
Farming takes on many forms; our current state is a small-scale family farm of donkeys, goats, chickens and bees. It’s not the large operation of twice-daily milking dairy cows, but it’s still a passion. I don’t always jump out of bed on a freezing-cold morning so that I can break ice from water buckets. Sure, it would be easier if I didn’t have to mow grass for 2 hours each week…and my back would not be sore from lifting 50 pound chicken feed sacks, but there’s something about new life with goats, donkeys and chickens. I love the fact that entire meals that we eat often come from the garden. I love to make soap with milk from our goats (even though she thinks that it’s torture).
Sure the house is old and seems to constantly need repairs and updates. It will never be a shiny McMansion with all the creature comforts, but it’s home. When we open the windows at night, we hear coyotes, cicadas, crickets and owls. The donkeys munch grass beneath the security light in the pasture next to the house. Fire ants find their way into feed bags, the car, and even the house. We question when strangers drive down our road; those we call “looky-loos”.
We welcome friends and family for visits and revel at the sunrises and sunsets. I scare myself with creaking noises in the barn. I laugh when my brother stands in the pasture and calls, “Here Kitty Kitty” so that the goats come running toward me! I take vacation time from work so that I can be at home when the vet visits for a herd-check. Our farm is an outreach to the community.
Our community is larger and smaller because of our connections through social media and through extended family. Everyone is our neighbor. Events around the world impact us, just like they impact you: gas shortages, riots, maternal health, education, wildfires, and politics. Yet, sometimes, amid the daily milking chores, gathering eggs, checking fences, committee meetings, requirements gathering, SQL statements, and commuting…goat antics are the things that make the most sense to me; and that includes goats in hot-pink tutus and neon-green halters. These are the things that bring us joy and what we want you to see. We find it difficult to share when we lose a hive, when the goats need to be treated for intestinal parasites, or when the chickens are sent to the retirement-home-in-the-sky. These things, you will not see.
What you won’t see, is me crying in solitude for the losses of our hurting friends while the pine trees whisper in the wind. What you don’t see is me making phone calls and writing letters to those who have experienced loss of loved ones. What you can’t see is my fear of uncertain times, and my outstretched arms in faith and prayers for peace and love.
Did I always want to be a farmer? I wanted to make an impact. And it happens to be that my experiences make me who I am, just as your experiences shape who you are. If being a farmer lets me be part of the greater good, to see beyond the exterior, and to own part of the hurting world, then I will be a farmer. Find your outreach.
“Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” Hebrews 11:1