As I’m writing this blog, I’m chuckling to myself! I’m sure you’ve figured it out that sarcasm is the name of the game in this post!
I’m in my office going through invoices, which seem to be ever plenty, and I’m happy to pay them(sort of). I look at the bottom line and see so many zero’s that I shout with joy. Oops I’m looking at the red not the black.
Warning! I may include exaggerating!
It’s true….we lead the most wonderful life where everything is rosy, pastures are always green and our chickens lay golden eggs. It starts as soon as hubby and I wake up look at one another smiling and joyous to greet our day and spend a blessed day on the farm. We put on our shiny Hunter rubbers(actually Canadian Tire on sale and typically covered in manure) and our tweed jackets(plain old coats from the Sally Anne, usually with a couple of tears in them and a spot or 2 of manure splats) and head to the barn to greet the animals whom I know are over the moon to see our smiling glorious faces(because they are hungry). The sun shines 24/7 on Middle River Farm and the temperature is always perfect for working outdoors. Our days are filled with non stop blissful, meaningful and idealistic work. Work that we love to do with little or no pay. BTW I may have lied about our chickens laying golden eggs!
I suppose I should get on with it!. The romanticism of farming is on almost every label that sells you Farm Fresh in your local grocery store. A picture of the perfect barn, rolling fields and smiling animals comes to mind when the shopper sees it. You certainly don’t see the bigger picture. The piles of manure from a winter’s worth of barn cleaning, the door that needs repairing on the chicken coop, the piece of equipment that is 20+ years old and the fences that may look a little worse for wear. Everything and anything that requires your attention over and above the care you need to administer to whatever it is you produce or raise. Oh, and don’t forget the health of your land base, assuring that pasture/soil is healthy and ready for animals/crops. You’ve heard it from me before, healthy land, healthy animals/crops! Also taking into account the endless hours and 7 day per week work schedule. I’ve been thinking of giving the cattle cell phones in the barn so they can call for take out… you know, so we can have a day off!
Now lets talk cash. So much cash that we don’t know what to do with it. My mattress is so stuffed that I now hide it in cookie jars, under floor boards and pillows. This is the get rich quick part! We’ve been farming for 30+ years and have been working on making a living seriously from it for the past 7 to 10. Every years end we go through accounts and book work to see where we can streamline, yet offer the same top quality product that is paramount to our business being successful. And every year we start out with new ideas and some trepidation for what’s ahead. Primarily weather of course. You’ve heard the constant complaint from farmers. It’s too wet, It’s too dry, we could use a little more sun etc. The weather predicts what our day/season will bring us. This year’s drought has given an approximate hay yield reduction of 40%. Last year yields were up but the quality and protein content were down considerably. This may not mean much to the reader but to us it means we have to be vigilant and supplement our cattle with mineral and vitamins for preparation of birthing and general good health. Minerals and Vitamins are an added expense which means I have to dip into the cookie jar. The roof needs to undergo major work which means the floorboards will have to be lifted and cash extracted. Oh yeah ….the tractor needs new tires so bust into the pillows. I know that every business has expenses, however our expectation that food should be cheap makes it especially difficult for a food producer. Small farms cannot compete with “Corporate Farms” and nor should they. They are 2 very different identities. I recently received a melon from a very knowledgeable grower (everyone needs to taste the food from Beaver Creek Organic Farm)and was blown away by the exceptional flavour. Their passion for growing clean superior tasting food is evident and their commitment to local food production is seen in their gardens. We also have a passion for raising the best product we can and love to exchange theories with like minded folks. People who have their hands in the dirt and are very connected to our environment.
My conclusion is that those who are directly linked to the growing/raising of our food, take it as a responsibility to be certain it enters the system as the freshest, nutritious and flavorful product to go on your table. Do we want to make a living at it. Of course! But small farmers have other notions in mindas well. They are about a rich community in health and sustainability! Communities that allow them to hire local workers, feed the people that live in them and keep the money within. Farming is definitely not a “Get rich quick scheme”. It is a long arduous process with many ups and downs and it has the one thing that binds people. Food glorious food!