Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer – One Year Later

In About Me by James2 Comments

I started this blog exactly one year ago today. I introduced myself in the (about me) section as someone who would spend the next year exploring the idea of becoming a farmer. I wrote that it was Joel Salatin’s book “You Can Farm” that planted the seed of farming being a possibility for someone like me – someone who has no experience and little capital. This post is a follow up to that introduction. Today is January 11th, 2014. So where am I today, one year later? Where has my journey taken me? What have I learned?

 

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In the span of one year I’ve read and reviewed 19 books on the topic of farming. Number 19 will be published by week’s end. The books have ranged from topics on gardening and worm composting to microbes and pastured poultry. I can’t say enough about what a valuable experience those books have been and I’m sure will continue to be. I’ve learned about Holistic Management which in farming terms is the use of livestock to reverse desertification – yes, cows are being used to improve the environment and feed the world. I know how to start my own garden using classic square foot gardening techniques. I understand why the number one resource a gardener or farmer can have is a healthy soil alive with trillions of microbes. I know how an individual with little to no capital can acquire land to work even though land prices are at record highs. I’ve learned how the relationship between a mentoring farmer and apprentice can be equally beneficial for both. I know about the importance of understanding the regulatory restrictions that can dictate what you can produce and sale, along with plenty of creative ways to get around them (the ones that don’t protect people but are designed to eliminate competition and protect the big producers). I’ve stepped into the emotional world of the farmer as many of the authors have been quite generous in sharing their heartbreak and triumphs with their readers. Forrest Pritchard wrote a book on how he saved the family farm by going against nearly everything his community believed good farming was. Joel Salatin lays his heart out for everyone to see in nearly every book he writes which is why he’s my favorite. Greg Judy talked about the lowest points in his life when he told his readers how his first wife divorced him and he nearly lost his house and farm. Reading has been and will be the light that illuminates the possibilities of farming – as reading is for most subjects.

Experience

The yin to the yang of reading is doing. When I wrote my introduction one year ago I literally had no experience farming. Along with reading I knew I had to get as much experience as I could. Thankfully I was able to connect with WWOOF Korea. Every two weeks they were taking groups outside of Seoul to a place called Namyang-Ju, which I’ve learned produces the bulk of Korea’s organic food. It wasn’t until the end May (read about my first experience here) that I was able to have my first experience farming and after the first time I basically never stopped going. I’m pretty sure I hold the record for attendance to these bi-weekly events, which became a reoccurring joke at the event which I was happy to be the butt of. Even more than the books it was these experiences that helped me know farming is what I want to do. I was lucky to met new people every week and see new friends who continued to come back as I did. I met a friendly farmer named Byung-Soo from Hansol Farm who has become a great friend and gave me the opportunity to work on his farm and showed enormous graciousness to the young people coming to his farm. He has been a big inspiration in my journey and I’m thankful to have met him. In addition to being inspired I inspired others. Not intentionally of course, but it happened. What a great feeling that is. Aside from becoming a part of a great community  I did actually do some work too. I collected eggs and worked with chickens. Harvested and planted strawberries. Harvested carrots and potatoes. Pulled more than a few weeds and cut fire wood. The work is perhaps the most important aspect of the experience. Aside from all the great friendships if you don’t like working and getting your hands dirty then farming is not the profession for you. I love the work. Part of my values and goals are being healthy. Moving your body and working your muscles daily is necessary in achieving optimal health and the farming lifestyle provides that, and provides it with variety. I go to the gym because of this, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can stop going because my job provides my daily exercise.

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Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer – Looking into the Future

When I began this journey it was to test the idea of a future in farming. The test is still underway but looking back I have answered many questions I had going into it. The test of any idea is endurance or the test of time. My idea was and is – can I farm, and do I want to farm? The answers I have received over the past year are yes and yes. Farming is as I learned going into this more than an occupation, it’s a lifestyle, which was a big part of the attraction for me. So understanding what I value in a lifestyle is of course a integral part of the decision making process as it should be for any kind of occupation. Holistic Management goes into the idea in great detail and guides you to form a Holistic Goal which includes lifestyle and values. To look at the idea of farming or frankly anything not using an holistic view is a mistake. This is one of the themes that I continue to come across in my journey. Another new perspective I’ve embraced is the idea of systems verses goals. I recently read an article that promoted the idea that focusing on a consistent system is more productive than focusing on specific goals, one of the reasons being it’s the system that creates the doing, and it’s the doing that will take you to your goals. In other words goals are for planning your progress and systems are for actually making progress. Shifting the focus from the goal to the system seems like a valuable way to approach your goals and ambitions in life. And looking back on this year I unconsciously did that. My goal was to explore the idea of farming. My systems were to read as much as possible and get as much on farm experience as possible. By focusing on my systems – Reading and Experience, and holding myself accountable to these systems – thanks in large part to this blog (thanks for the idea Gabe) I have come much closer to reaching my ultimate goal of farming.

I plan on continuing with these two systems and perhaps refining for the next year while I’m here in Korea. On the immediate horizon is an opportunity I believe sticking with my systems has allowed for me to experience. 10 days from now my girlfriend, Anna, and I will be traveling to Australia to live and work with Graeme Hand on his farm. Graeme is one of the top Holistic Management educators in the country. He runs cows under Holistic Management practices and might introduce pastured chickens while we are there. I had been looking for a kind of internship opportunity during my winter vacation for some time and when things were not looking good another farmer after telling us he could not host us due to bad timing suggested to contact Graeme. After a few email exchanges where I shared with Graeme my goals, systems, and expectations, he welcomed us. I believe it was the work I put in this past year that opened the door for that opportunity. I will post a series on what happens in Australia, there’s no doubt it will be a game changer for us. We’re looking forward to it. Thanks for reading and stick to your systems in the new year, it pays off. Until next time. ~James

Comments

  1. Addye

    Happy one Yr. in to your Farming Journey!!!! I’m so glad that all the reading/learning & exploring through doing have proven to be so valuable for you!!! I have learned so much that actually helped my personal health & gave me peace of mind. Never thought I would be excited at my age, about deciding turning my back yard into a healthy food supply. So thank you for sharing with the book reviews !!! Now that you have had some actual experience working on farms in Korea & are about to venture onto a working Ranch/Farm in Australia, I will be looking forward to reading about Your & Anna J’s Aussie Adventure!!

  2. Author
    James

    Thank you! Thanks for being a regular reader and commenter. I’m happy to hear you’ve made some positive changes and have been inspired from reading this blog. 😉 Congratulations for taking the initiative to make those positive changes in your life. A lot of people know what would be better for them and even acknowledge it out loud to others but never take the initiative to make the change or take the first step. Best of luck to your square foot gardening in the new year, design a great system and stick to it and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful harvest. Thanks for the well wishes.

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