I asked the farmers in my book to tell my why they farm, what they love, what makes it hard, what eaters need to know. This answer from Georgie Smith of Willowood Farm in Ebey’s Prairie (also a writer) is priceless wisdom and a penetrating peek into the small farmer’s life.
- Why do you farm/raise livestock?
Because I can’t not farm. Farmer’s don’t become farmer’s to make a million dollars. They do it because that is who they are. Then the struggle is how to match up who you are with how to make it financially viable.
- What is rewarding about farming/livestock – so rewarding that you do it despite the difficulties and economics?
The reward of seeing a crop brought to harvest. The end of day when you are body tired but mind satisfied by the tasks accomplished. The realization that you’re daily work creates a product that is not nebulous in its importance (how important TRULY is that new GAP shirt? Or the latest IPhone?). It is food. It sustains and nourishes and provides life.
- What makes farming/raising livestock tough economically or otherwise?
Food has been taken for granted for a long time in this country. Often when I deliver my weekly orders I stop by to buy office supplies. It is not common for me to spend the easily the same amount in buying a bit of paper, ink, a few pens, maybe some staples, as I have just made in one or two or my deliveries. That always seems skewed to me. We have devalued the price of the things we need most to survive on a daily basis yet over-valued many of the things we can live with out.
- Do you have a philosophy of farming? That would be values or ‘spirit’ or method or choices. however you approach the question.
I have two philosophies. One is “This is a hell of a lot of work. If I don’t truly love it and have a great time doing it then I’m not doing it.” To that means, I try to grow for the reasons I like growing. I enjoy trying new and unusual vegetables, a challenge of a different crop.
The other philosophy is “sustainability.” And by that I mean, not only farming using sustainable practices to nurture the land, but the financial sustainability of what I do, and the emotional and physical sustainability of what I do. If I cannot find a way to farm that provides enough financial reward while allowing me enough time to relax and recover and enjoy my family then it doesn’t matter how great of an “environmentally sustainable” farmer I am, I can’t financially and emotionally/physically sustain it.
- What do you want eaters/consumers to know, that you think they don’t?