This Is NOT A Hobby

This is not a rant either, so please stick with me if I sound a little crabby.  I don’t mean to be.  This is a tough topic to write about because my audience here is a mix of other farmers (who want the straight talk) and customers (whom I obviously don’t want to offend).

Over the past couple years Brian and I have become more and more serious about farming and making the farm profitable.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Brian would enjoy driving his tractor if he had to pay to do it.  I certainly love dealing with the animals and will probably always keep a few around.

That being said, there are a lot of things we would NOT do if we didn’t hope to make a profit from it one day.  Examples include:

  • sleeping poorly and getting up several times per night to check that the latest ewe isn’t stuggling to lamb or that the heat lamp for the chicks is keeping them warm and isn’t burning down the barn
  • juggling feed bills, fertilizer bills, seed bills, rental payments, etc.
  • foregoing certain home improvements so the animals can have a new barn
  • spending good portions of the summer baling hay and good portions of the winter moving and delivering it
  • allowing for botched vacations because things at home need attention and we can’t take the risk of “letting it go

I’m sure I could come up with more but I think I made my point.  I’m not whining here.  By no means is anyone making us do these things.  We’re doing them because we do enjoy farming and want to make a little money at it.  If we can’t, we’ll scale back.  Sure, we’re busy right now.  We all know a lot of people who sacrificied to start businesses.  Some lose, some win.  The verdict is still out on us and that’s OK.

We are in a location that makes things interesting.  There is little demand to go organic, at least on the animal side of things.  People in this area are not going to pay $4.50/pound for chicken even if God Himself raised it.  We’re trying to provide food from animals grown humanely and somewhat naturally, at a price that the average guy can afford, and not go broke doing it.  It’s challenging.

We are, like most farmers, do-it-yourselfers.   We tend to look at things and think, “Oh, yeah, we could probably build that instead of buying it.”  So I understand that some people will think that way about what we do.  I think it’s great when people keep a few chickens or raise their own turkey dinner.  You will never have more confidence in the quaility of your food then when you grow it yourself.  After all, that’s why so many people have vegetable gardens.

Anyway, I don’t mind offering a few tips here and there and helping out when someone wants to raise animals.  I’m not a vet and I could lose my LVT license for offering veterinary advice so I generally won’t help much with medical problems and that’s not going to change.

I do wish people would think a little more before they ask certain questions.  You don’t call your local tractor mechanic (hi Robin! 🙂 ) and expect him to explain to you every last detail of fixing your tractor and oh, could you borrow his special tool for doing so?  You don’t call your hairdresser and say, yeah, my sister’s going to come with me for my next haircut and watch how you do it so she can take over.  We don’t get to buy Turbo Tax and then call our accountant and say, hey, Jerry, I don’t want to pay you this year but what do I put in boxes C & D?  And you know what: in every example, even if you did those things, the results wouldn’t be nearly as nice.  The job wouldn’t be done nearly as efficiently.  Make sense?

I’d love your feedback.  Farmers, can you relate?  Consumers, does this make sense or does it sound too harsh?


12 thoughts on “This Is NOT A Hobby

  1. Farmer's Daughter

    Totally makes sense to me! Even after 300 years on the same farm, my family still struggles with each generation to keep it alive and keep it going. I left because I knew there wasn’t a future there for me, and that I’d have to work off the farm (as everyone in my family does). It’s a tough way to make a living, with long, long hours, and unless you’ve lived it, you really don’t get it!

  2. The Mom

    I absolutely agree. I am by no means a farmer, but try my best to buy from farmers like you. It is so sad that so many would be farmers are going off the farm as a result of what our society has done to the farming industry. It seems that the double whammy of incredibly hard work and little pay is just too much. I certainly don’t blame anyone that doesn’t want to do it. I just hope that there will be more young couples like yourselves that decide to take the chance. I also hope that the rewards increase so that more will try it.

  3. Mermaid

    Everyone wants something for nothing. It is sad because that is the mentality that leads to inferior products, whether it is our food or our cars or anything else. I understand farming is so very tough! It is especially tough when you are competing against the feedlot or Tyson. I wish more people supported local farmers and were willing to pay a bit more for a much superior product.

  4. Angie

    Hi Jena,

    Yep, I get it. I’m with you. We have friends that would rather sit on a beach yet then say to us – you guys are so lucky to have a farm (or rental apartment units). Right. They aren’t at a rental apartment at 10 pm on a Sunday night unclogging a drain either. But that is the choice we have made and they have made theirs. We’ve lost friends because of our work schedule – they want to hang out – we have work to do.

    This is why I love the locavore movement too. It isn’t necessarily about organic – its about buying food from people that you know and trust. And farmers like you that care about their ground and their animals and want to raise them humanely. And keeping money in our communities – not to the big corporations.

  5. Kathi

    I can totally relate……………we all do the BEST we can at our husbandry skills by reading, learning, studying………….I once read somewhere that the “best husbandry skills you can give any animal is by being prepared and being knowledgeable.” It amazes me how many people get animals and don’t have a clue as to how to raise them or Dr. them if need be, it’s truly a shame for the animal.

    On that note, keep up the good work girl and hopefully you will reap many rewards from your efforts.

  6. Annemarie

    We have a fruit and vegetable farm and sell directly to the public. It is a lot of hard work and unfortunately people nowadays aren’t familiar with all of the work that goes into producing our sweet corn, for example. Usually they want their produce for really cheap and don’t understand why we charge what we do. On the upside, 98% of our customers are great, want to get to know their farmer and love our produce! Hang in there, there are days where I want to quit but luckily those are few and far between.

    It isn’t easy to make a living farming, but we enjoy what we do and keep on plugging along.

  7. Leah

    I’m new to your blog. I think I found you through my friend Rebecca at Renaissance blog. I agree with what you said to an extent. But really, how can we expect other people to learn how to do certain things if we’re not willing to help them learn?! Yes, there are books and magazines but that’s just not the same as seeing something for yourself or hearing someone knowledgeable explain it in detail. I don’t know the ins and outs of your situation but my husband and I get excited when people ask us about how to do some of what we do! It encourages us that there are people out there who still care about agriculture and farming. They have a desire to take responsibility for their own needs whether it be how to raise and care for chickens or how to milk a cow. None of us know it all! We all have questions from time to time. Sometimes it just takes jumping into something and learning as you go. We all had to learn from someone else at some point. Some of us learned from our parents. Some of us learned from our spouses. Some of us learned from friends or other family members.

    And honestly, we’re not in it for the money. We live this way because we love it! We know that it is beneficial to our children. We know that we’re healthier because of it. Our goal is to provide for as many of our own needs as possible. If we happen to make some extra money in the process that’s wonderful but it isn’t our reason for farming.

    I’m not sure this was the best post on which to make my first comment. I’m not trying to be negative, critical, or offensive. I’m just trying to give those other people the benefit of the doubt and see things from their perspective.

    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      Nice to “see” you here, thanks for stopping in. I’m not upset at all by your comment. I agree with what you said for the most part. I do get excited when people show an interest in raising their own food and my husband and I both enjoy sharing what we know. The ones that I don’t appreciate are people who currently buy all their food at Wal-Mart and are thinking they could raise _____ and make a profit selling it to people they know. I don’t care to share with them all that we have learned.
      Like I said, we do really enjoy what we’re doing and I expect that we will always farm to some extent, at least enough to feed our own family. What we won’t do is push ourselves like we have been if we don’t make any money at it. Right now we both work full-time off the farm. I intend to stay home when we have children and my husband would love to farm full-time. The money has to come from somewhere!
      I’ll visit over at your blog, maybe I’ll see you back. LoL – you said maybe yours’ was a bad first comment. I’m hoping you’ve been reading for awhile because posts like this one aren’t the norm here! 🙂

      1. blessednjoyful

        I’m so glad you didn’t find my comment offensive. I understand much better now what you mean! People just don’t understand the time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears that goes into farming even on a small scale. And to think that they’re just going to automatically have a market for their goods is not good planning. Thanks so much for clarifying for me.

        You’re right! The money does have to come from somewhere. Many people are not willing to live with less “stuff” in order to enjoy the benefits of an agricultural lifestyle. I hope you’re able to find a way to stay home with your precious children when the time comes!

        I’ve been reading for a week or so and have really enjoyed your other posts. This one was certainly not the first post I read. 😉

        I look forward to getting to know you better!

  8. Linda Holtzlander

    You speak from the heart for so many farmers from the past.
    It really is a balancing act – I love that you are trying so hard, and wish you luck in finding your way.
    Grandma Polzin never allowed animals in the house when your mom and I were little, but in the spring we allways had to bring some of the newborn lambs in by the fireplace to dry them off and warm them up because it was too cold for them, or they were too little, or the mother had rejected them.
    It IS a hard hard life — You will find your balance.
    And people are always going to say stupid things — sometimes that is the hardest part. After all the work you do and the effort you put into it and somebody wants to pay the same price for a chicken that they buy at Meijers. It makes ME want to slap them.
    You know Dave is a blacksmith – (not a farrier – did I spell that right – anyway) — he had so many calls asking him to shoe horses, and he used to rant and rave about that quite a bit because he wanted people to be smart enough to know the difference between a farrier and a blacksmith and they just don’t. I remember a couple of calls where people actually tried to pressure him into at least “trying to shoe their horses,” and Dave — he’s afraid of horses – with good reason too- horses are tempermental — can you imagine a person with no horse experience trying to slap a slab of metal onto and nail it to a horse’s foot. You know because you’ve done it.
    Hope I made you laugh a little

  9. Farmer's Daughter

    Haha Angie! Other kids always used to say “You’re so lucky to live on a farm!” and I remember thinking yeah right, we work all year long while you play video games! My brothers and I used to try to list things other kids got to do while we stacked wood in the basement or worked at the farm market all day each weekend in the fall. We thought they were lucky!


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