Rod Dreher posts a letter from a young ‘un asking about law school and farming. Similarly, a commenter here last week asked:
I have only ever been acquainted, through my extended family, with operations of the middling lar ge (though still solely family run) variety. As a result, I have been in the habit of simply lamenting that fate did not see fit to place me, as it did my kin, in line to inherit a family farm. After all, I thought, the equipment alone required to run such an operation is worth millions of dollars, not to speak of the land, buildings, etc. How could someone of strictly limited financial means, such as I, ever hope to break in to that field from the outside? Lately, I have been entertaining thoughts of one day running a much smaller farm of the sort you’ve discussed in your post. The problem is that I still don’t have the first clue how to begin! I am willing to overcome the steep learning curve with some nose-to-the-grindstone studying about agricultural methods and practice; the primary problem, for someone in my situation, is still financial. You hint at this in your post: most of the small farmers you write about are just “families who can get their hands on some land (very hard to do up here; most of these guys have family connections)”; this is not, I suspect, a problem limited to the lovely Midwest. It is probably the single greatest obstacle facing most people in my situation. With all that in mind, I propose that you and/or other interested parties on this sit e post a sort of primer on starting a small, self-sustaining family farming operation. How glorious for all of us arm-chair farmers (most of us on this site, I suspect, have done no real farming to speak of). This short-course would be an eminently practical supplement to this (happily) theory-laden web log.
I love that “break into the field” jargon used entirely without irony! The problem is mental more than anything else, and that euphemism about “fields” of labor just about sums up the problem perfectly.
I do hope that FPR is not a bastion of theory only, and I don’t think it is or will be. That’s partly why I posted a simple farm story today. What people need isn’t a “clue”–it’s a simple example. The only financial problem most people have in this still amazingly prosperous land is stupidity, a complete inability to delay gratification, and absurd expectations about their standard of living. I blame the universities.
So for my part at least, the idea of a “primer” here is blackly hillarious (see title above). On the other hand, a daily reminder and example of others living in love with the frailty and limits of their own existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to them by family, friendship, and community–all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly–could help.
To suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the only true basis for finding love, friendship, and an authentic, meaningful life. As the Poet said: “It ain’t me Babe, it ain’t me your looking for, Babe.”