• Am I A Farmer?

    by  • November 3, 2013 • Featured, Gardening & Pets • 6 Comments

    farmer handsI grow food on my land. I share this food with people well beyond my family. I work in the soil ten hours a week with Swainway Urban Farm and sell our mushrooms and microgreens at farmers’ markets. My hands are dirty all the time. All these are good signs that I might be a farmer.

    But yet I resist this label and I want to unpack why.

    For a long time, my excuse was that a farmer sells their food, and I didn’t, so I couldn’t be a farmer. But now, I do grow and sell food for Swainway and I’ve given my family and friends in excess of $500 worth of food this season.

    Farming, if I’m a farmer, is certainly not my primary occupation – I write, teach cooking classes, mother, and volunteer. That’s why I’ve been drawn to the word homesteader. I could also be a ‘hobby farmer’ but that seems to devalue the work of farming. Yes, I might not grow food and raise chickens for profit, but an hour of bed building is the same whether the eventual tomatoes go to market or are consumed at home.

    The biggest resistance in my mind is that I don’t think of farmers and farming organizations as representing the food growing system I want to see. Farmers are people who drive tractors and own many acres and raise meat in feedlots and file for government subsidies and use chemical fertilizers and plant gmo seeds. I spend enormous effort and money to feed those I love with food that doesn’t come from the typical American farm. If I call myself a farmer, I’m afraid that people will think I’m one of the conventional types.

    Beyond the fact that I oppose the growing ¬†practices of the vast majority of American farmers, I feel like I don’t fit in with the traditional farming lifestyle. I live in the city. I hold liberal values. I have a bachelor’s degree in geological science and constantly pursue additional education through reading, conferences, and classes. I don’t think anyone would describe me as a bumpkin or yokel, the third definition of farmer as provided by Merriam-Webster.

    It makes me a little sad that when I think of a farmer, I think of something I don’t want to be. No matter advances in technology, people will always need to eat. The number of people who farm as an occupation has declined steadily ¬†in the last few decades but our population needs real food. Somehow, smart, hard-working, earth-minded growers (like me?) must reclaim farming as an honorable avocation.

    What say you: am I a farmer?

    About

    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse

    http://www.harmonioushomestead.com

    6 Responses to Am I A Farmer?

    1. November 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      The perception of “who’ or “what” a farmer is has evolved. Most definitely, you have traditional farming but now there is an urban farmer (even if it is done part-time) who is part of the American food system too, and contributes a new view on eating fresh and local.

      Velva

      • November 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm

        Very true, Velva. I suppose there’s room for many different ways of farming under the occupational name ‘farmer’.

    2. Jen
      November 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      I’m perplexed by your generalization that farmers are not educated. Why must an education come from an institution? You who unschool your own daughter should rethink that statement. Also, I come from a large family and half of them are actively farming the land or raising animals. Not once have I thought that their farming is the same, different, better, or worse than small farms, urban farms, huge farms, etc. Maybe these “conventional” farms are doing small things for our environment. Maybe they grow small plots of food for their family and friends in another area than their subsidized fields. Also most of
      The farmers I know wear many hats too. Mothers, fathers, laborers, teachers, accountants, insurances salesman, and more. In fact my uncle runs a very successful mechanic shop and also farms a huge area in Wapakoneta. This whole post makes me think you know nothing about the conventional farmer. I’m sure you intended for your post to be evocative and it was. In this instance I could not stay quiet.

      • November 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

        I don’t think I generalized that farmers are uneducated – in fact I referenced an outside source that make that generalization. Education does come from many sources and many farmers I know do have bachelor’s degrees, often in agriculture.

        I know many conventional farmers personally, have toured several conventional farms, and attended conventional farming events. While I don’t know everything about conventional farming, I do speak from experience that what I do and what happens on conventional farms is not the same at all. I tried not to imply that one is better than the other but that I don’t fit in the conventional farming mold.

      • Deb
        November 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

        Agree with Jen. As a “traditional farmer” was very insulted. We are college educated, attend conferences, classes and read to keep up with the changing world of agriculture. I applaud you wanting to provide for your family but think your views are very narrow minded.

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