Here’s the big confession: I feel like an ass calling our work a “farm”. The entire yard is all of 1600 square feet, and a good chunk of that is occupied by various non-food-producing structures.
The land on which our actual food is growing consists of four raised beds, divided up into VERY approximate versions of square foot-ish grids. Size-wise, and production-wise, it could just as well be called the G word. A garden.
But somehow, that doesn’t fit. The “farm” label, as inaccurate as it may be, has more to do with what we’re aiming for than with the acreage (or lack thereof). Our family isn’t aiming to create food for purchase by others, or to make a living off the land we own. We aren’t going to raise and kill livestock. We aren’t planning our crops with the conscious goal of aiming to feed others in our community, though we do feed others a good deal with what we grow.
What we are aiming for is to eat as much as possible from what we produce ourselves, through year-round planting, as well as canning, freezing, and pickling. That’s the simple part.
The more nuanced parts are a consequence of that decision. For example, ever since I made two cups of homemade ricotta cheese last summer (and realized it took around 2 gallons of milk to do so), I have a renewed appreciation for local cheese making. And a greater sense of connection to what the true costs are of just picking up a container of cheese at the grocery store. What conditions create my convenience?
Ever since I have started making crackers for my kids, and have realized that they go stale in about five milliseconds, I question what it is that prevents even so-called “natural” packaged crackers from getting stale for so long. What the heck is in there? It might be simple — but I sure as heck don’t know how that process is prevented. And I want to.
Both my wife and I work full-time, and have a lot of responsibilities — to the family we have created, the families we come from, and to our friends. It’s not like we are planning to start carving dolls from our kids from corn husks, and knit by candlelight. We are firmly and gratefully grounded in the conveniences we surround ourselves with.
I am, however, on a journey of questioning things I have taken for granted, especially how my choices connect me to corporations and agricultural practices I would rather not support, as much as that is possible within the constraints of our life.
In that light, what I am doing is much more farm-y than garden-y. I feed my chickens; my chickens feed me and my children and my wife and my in-laws and my mother and my sisters and my friends and neighbors. I compost what we can’t use, and our ground gives us what we need to grow fruits and vegetables throughout the year. I can/pickle/freeze our own produce and that I get from local growers, and I extend our decreased dependency on agri-business a little further each year. Our children are learning to anticipate what fruit comes at what point in our garden, and how long it takes before a hen can lay an egg.
I’m not living in overalls, and I’m not in the country (nor do I want to be, at this point in my life). But I guess I am, in a certain way, farming.