A few weeks ago now, Lori Enright and I stood atop the orchard, chatting about pigs, farming, and life in general. Lori (who is kind of a big deal), was stopping by with some meds that were needed to treat a little piglet of mine with a persistent cough. After wrangling Little Pig, we stood a moment, observing the others.
Our conversation drifted to why we do this. "This" being what most (and sometimes our husbands) would consider an unreasonable and borderline-insane devotion of "free time" to the care of farm animals, the preservation of heritage breeds, and a personal involvement with our food.
We talked about our various reasons, political and cultural ideologies among them, the love of the animals, the fulfillment that comes from working with our hands... and then I started describing my love of the people, my "customers," who feel more like community than patrons. As I did, my eyes involuntarily prickled. My heart swelled. I was getting downright sentimental! I cleared my throat, adjusted my hat, and focused on shuffling around some dirt with the toe of my boot, much as any old-time hardcore farmer would do to save himself (and his company) the embarrassment of a dewy-eyed moment.
But it has since occurred to me: I am not that farmer. I am a farmHER, and I will not shy away from the opportunity to gush about the people I've been so thankful to welcome onto this farm.
You see, one of the biggest blessings this farming venture has bestowed on us is the pleasure of developing a little network of like-minds. Strangers from all professions, ethnicities, and places. Fellow former-Floridians, aspiring homesteaders, Russian immigrants,vegans, mothers, sisters, families, and widowers. Some of whom have even become dear friends (you know who you are). I value every one of them for the knowledge and passion they bring to this farm. I look forward to my interactions with them, knowing that these relationships are based on a mutual investment in clean, humanely raised food and a sustainable lifestyle.
We've also discovered the hidden farmer in those we already know. A colleague at the university turned out to be somewhat of a chicken-processing expert, and graciously offered to teach us the "technique." This is someone who, formerly, I would have only talked academic neuroscience with, and yet we found ourselves elbow deep in feathers in her backyard. Our own parents, and particularly Aaron's dad, have surprised us with their enthusiasm for grass seed, goats milk, and soap-making, among other things. I've had old friends come out of the woodwork, confessing their own aspirations to raise animals, grow their garden, raise some chickens. Other dear friends who also drank of the proverbial Kool-aid and join us in dreaming about hosting on-farm dinners, growing meat chickens here on pasture, and planning that elusive market garden. In short, the farm has allowed us to connect with old friends in new ways, and our lives have been enriched as a result. I'm thankful to know people who get it.
The dirty life is not for everyone. I know that. But if it is for you, don't be shy. Don't be ashamed to dream. Be fervent. You are but one more among us, and we are grateful for you.