When I was a child and young man, having little clue about the direction of my future, there were two things about which I was absolutely certain:
- I was not going to be a farmer.
- I was not going to own a business.
Growing up in a small, family-owned business, and earning my first paychecks in the heart of dairy country, I’d seen enough of each lifestyle to know they were the way of fools. I remember asking Dad, time and time again: “Why do you do it? Why do you work choose to work so hard as a business owner?”
To which he would inevitably reply: “Well Lou, either you’re the one making decisions, or you’re the one carrying the lunch box.”
“But Dad,” I’d carry on, “you do carry a lunch box…”
It wasn’t the point he was making, but I knew he was foolish nonetheless. As for the farmers, I saw enough of them around my neighborhood and family to know that they were tethered to their home at least twice per day; they worked longer and harder for everyone else, and complained slightly less-than-jokingly about not making any money. Again, I clearly saw, foolish.
But some part of me did enjoy the camaraderie at the end of a long day on my neighbor’s dairy farm: working together through the ceaseless heat to make fence, split wood, chop hay, or any other number of projects, in addition to seeing that the cows were fed and milked. Demanding though it was, something about it just felt good.
Then came the summer of 2016, when Fanni and I experienced life on our first organic farms: Wild Folk Farm, Good Enough Farm and D Acres, all in the northeastern US. There was just something enticing and intoxicating about those guys. They were free. They grew their own food; they knew how to use it, and they made their own decisions. They knew what they worked for; they knew how to work, and they loved it. Coming out of years of dry academia and a miserable professional internship, I had no idea that people could actually live like that. It was a lifesaving breath of fresh air. Come nightfall, we’d eat dinner together and bask in the glow of a day well-worked, exhausted and fulfilled.
I never recovered from that. In spite of the adamance of my younger self, some part of me felt the necessity of getting what those guys had, and, back in Point, I searched until it found me. Now, as a business co-owner and farmer, I thrive in the grind of endless work and long days. Whenever possible, I line up projects after market on Saturdays, to spend some additional time on the land I’m beginning to love, with the people I’m beginning to love. Body sharp; mind and conscious clear, I eat better than I ever dreamed possible, and rarely lose a wink of sleep. I just love it.
And we talk about a future in small-scale dairy. I consider the possibility of myself tethered to the land twice a day, working substantially harder than the average person for less money, and that is okay. I’m free. I can easily acknowledge that farming is not the lifestyle for everyone, but I’m certain that it is actually the life for me.