I hope you’re enjoying this series! In case you’ve missed the other posts, here are the links to read them:
- A New Blog Series: How to Fail at Farming (Or, Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Succeed at Farming)
- How to Fail at Farming Post #2, Buy a Farm without Considering Your Own Personality and Passions
- How to Fail at Farming Post #3, Buy a Farm without Considering Your Kids’ Activities
When we bought our farm, our kids were 8, 7, 6 and 2. We had dabbled in baseball, soccer and swimming lessons, but we did not have any set activities that were our family’s big activities yet. Buying a farm when your kids are young and haven’t yet discovered their passions is probably really wise, actually. Maybe they will get used to being farmers and “that’s all.”
It gets complicated as kids get older and they have set activities that they desire to participate in. I remember reading a Joel Salatin book where he said something about the need to give up kids’ sports and other activities in order to be a farming family. I read it–but at that time I couldn’t really grasp the idea that farming would mean giving up all of those outside activities–or else we’d burn out.
We didn’t give up all of our kids’ activities when we lived on the farm. I still thought swimming lessons were a pretty good use of our time, especially since we had three ponds on our property. That took us away from the farm regularly, for periods of time. Our kids still participated in baseball. I remember driving to and from baseball without my husband, while he stayed home to milk the cows and get farm chores done. This might not bother you, if you’re used to hauling kids around without your spouse present. I wasn’t. Prior to owning the farm, my husband was the coach of our kids’ t-ball team. I really liked having him there, and I liked us getting to know the other baseball families together. I felt like we were missing something during that farming season.
See, we are homeschoolers, so those outside activities, as well as church every Sunday, are our whole social life. We meet people and chat, and guess what? Those people become our friends. And personally, I think friends are a good thing. 🙂 My mom warned me once that these years when our kids are young and involved in activities are our prime years for making the adult friendships we will have for many years. She said it’s harder to gain these friendships later in life. I think these are critical years, guys–I want to be out when my kids are out. I’ve never been comfortable being a drop-off mom who is not directly involved in my kids’ activities. I want our life and schedule to be free enough for me, and my husband, to be with our kids wherever they are.
We could have chosen to give up outside activities, but because those were our social events, giving them up completely could have caused us to become isolated. For our personalities and for our kids’ personalities, we needed to get out and be with other people. We have one kid in particular who gets pretty depressed if we go days without seeing other people. He thrives on being in groups and with friends. Living in an isolated environment, far from friends and family and not participating in extra activities, can be extremely difficult on extroverted kids like our son.
That same son asked repeatedly, even before we moved onto the farm, if he could be in theater. We had seen several plays with our homeschool friends, and he wanted to be in those plays. During our years on the farm, we kept saying no to theater. His requests were persistent. He was 7 when we moved onto the farm, and he would tell other people “Someday I’m going to be in a play.” When we moved off of the farm, I googled one of the theater companies that we had been exposed to and got my kids signed up. My husband and I have been extra-involved since then, running aspects of the tech booth (my husband), leading the props team (me), etc. We love it, and all of our kids have enjoyed at least some part of theater (whether it be backstage crew/tech, dancing, or acting and/or singing). Last summer, our entire family participated in a Mary Poppins musical. Mary Poppins is my very favorite Disney movie, and it was my first time ever standing on a stage to audition. I checked that off of my bucket list! Done! It was a fun experience! And guess what? That kid who begged to do theater? He’s a natural at it. For his sake, I am glad we moved off the farm and can now pursue his passion. This is him:
And here is our family in our Mary Poppins costumes. One of our sons was a part of the backstage crew and didn’t need a costume.
Even our puppy was cast in that play! Had we chosen to do theater while living on the farm, would it have worked? Can a family do theater and farming? Well maybe. If they’re superheroes! 🙂 My pastor’s wife says the cutest thing to me, and this image is stuck in my brain. You know how people talk about their “plate being full”? She says her plate is a tiny saucer, and mine is a platter. Haha! So, in other words, I do tend to take on a lot in my life, and I’m generally ok with it. Doing theater plus farming would have been way too much for this big platter gal! I think in order to truly pursue theater, we would have had to give up farming activities for that season.
That is a choice that farmers can make: have a season of raising chickens, and then a season of theater, and then a season of soccer, and then a season of raising pigs….I guess it can be done. The struggles I can see with this scenario are:
- Some farm activities come around every year at around the same time whether you want them to or not. Apple trees will have ripe apples that are ready to harvest and put up for winter. Hay will need to be cut when the time is right. Laying hens don’t take much of a break, if any. The cows’ water will freeze in winter, regardless if you’ve decided that winter is your season for off-farm activities. You will need to thaw it, now matter how busy you are, or your cows may die.
- Along with the regular farm activities that happen every year, there are the unexpected things that happen. The barn needs repairing. The driveway needs re-rocking because of the big potholes. The goat died. What do you do with a big, dead goat? The pigs got loose, again. Being extra busy with activities can make these inevitable kinds of events feel like a tremendous weight on your shoulder, back, family and life.
- If you need to farm to make money, you can’t take a season off. You just can’t. I can’t think of any one farming venture that pays so well that the farmer and his family get to kick their feet up and fly off to Hawaii in the off season. Perhaps big commercial, government subsidized farms are blessed with this kind of farming calendar, but really–I doubt it. Chances are, you will not be able to take off big chunks of time if you own a farm, if your farming covers any of your living expenses.
Farming itself is a FABULOUS “activity” for a family, please do not misunderstand my post. Farming is better than any sport, or a gym membership for that matter, for building muscle, participating in physical activity, and for soaking up Vitamin D in the great outdoors. People who live in neighborhoods, like we do now, have to be intentional about adding activity and purposeful sunlight into their daily schedule. When you’re a farming family, these things are just a part of your life.
Farming doesn’t have to be isolating, either. We had moments on the farm when others were with us, working alongside us. Since we didn’t grow up in our farming community and didn’t know any neighbors who we could invite to help us & in return help them, we ended up hiring teenage boys. So mostly, our kids had exposure to some pretty hard-working, impressive young men who “hung out” with us, hooking up garden irrigation systems, butchering chickens and even castrating pigs. 😉 There are good reasons to bring other people onto your farm to work with you and to have good conversation with.
My Advice to Wanna-Be Farmers:
Decide if farming is going to be your family’s activity, or if there are other activities that you feel you cannot live without. Are music lessons, or sports, or theater, or art lessons super important to your kids? What are you all willing to give up to be farmers? What will you miss and possibly regret doing without if your farm takes up all of your time?