Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nina’s Musings on Being an Urban Farmer

Being an urban farmer is certainly an interesting thing. I say “thing” because I can’t quite bring myself to call it a job. Yes sure, sometimes it feels like a job, when I have required “all staff” meetings and timesheets and safety committee reports to fill out; but for the most part I feel like it is really simply what I do, how I am, who I am, my lifestyle. It is never, “what time do you finish work?” but instead, “I’ll leave the farm at such and such a time.”
On my taxes I say I am a farmer, yet I don’t fill out any of the agricultural tax questions about farm-based income. I used to travel over the Canadian/US border frequently and when asked what I did, I’d say I was an Agricultural Educator because it simply caused less trouble with the customs agents. I shake people’s hands and they look at my calluses and ask with amazement what I have been doing.
When new people come out to the farm we usually exchange the same three or four questions, “How long have you been here?” “How did you get into this?” “How did you learn how to farm?” The undertone of these questions is generally friendly curiosity, with a bit of perplexed intrigue. People are always polite with their questions, but I know I am a bit of an anomaly. Every now and then the conversation will continue to a different, yet still common question, “So what do you plan to do after this?”
Despite what anyone may or may not intend by this question, it carries with it the expectation that this is just a stepping stone to something next which is greater. While someday I may move on to my “own” 5 acres and a cow in rural Vermont, I typically reply, “this IS what I plan to do, I farm.”  Which is a subtle way or reminding people that farming in itself is a desirable goal, and once you farm, there is no climbing up the hierarchical ladder of job promotions- farming is the best part of…farming.
This is not to say I don’t have any other interests, and sometimes my friends will say why don’t you do this…or that, and I generally reply that I would love to, and half jokingly say I might after my back breaks and I can’t farm anymore. Or maybe someday I’ll get tired of filling out Weavers Way weekly time sheets, or locking 8 locks (yes 8, Saul has a new barn with 4 locking doors) on the farm before I go home, and I’ll pack my bags and open a breakfast café in Vermont, with real maple syrup.
But until then, I consider myself to have the best “job” in the world. 

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