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  • Kendra R. Shatswell

I Do Not Own a Hobby Farm

A person compared the farm and the money I spend on it to a person that spent every penny rebuilding and customizing a classic truck. While it was unintentional, that comparison completely belittled the farm. I didn’t bother trying to rebut, as I am, frankly, a terrible orator. I need time and paper to organize thoughts into cohesive sentences. Otherwise, it comes out in an angry, jumbled mess, possibly sprinkled with choice expletives. Am I interested in farming? Obviously.

Do I enjoy it like I do other hobbies? Yes, generally.

Do I spend a lot of money on the farm? You bet your boots.

Yet, the farm is not a hobby. At least not for me.

A hobby is “an activity done in one’s leisure time for pleasure” or “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.” I have several hobbies – reading, writing, collecting silly little Pop figures… Farming is not a hobby. It is joyful and sorrowful and comical and infuriating and WORK. It takes up the majority of my time in rain or snow or sunshine. Every single day. Every single season.

It has a purpose besides my own pleasure – the goal is to produce, to improve the land, the animals. I want to know where at least some of my food comes from! I want to feed other people! I want to see the pastures grow thicker and more nutritious for my critters without sacrificing pollinator habitats!

Yes, the farm costs money, especially since it was utterly lacking fencing or barns. These are long-term, necessary investments to improve the quality of life for the critters, to improve efficiency, to improve the quality of the pastures – not to mention add more value to the property.

Making the farm pay for itself or turn a profit when looking at total operating costs verses farm-generated income takes time. It may never happen. I don’t know. It is getting closer. I am trying to take this venture, this lifestyle, and at the very least, make it pay for itself. But in the meantime, I know where at least a portion of my food comes from. I know I am feeding at least some people. I know how my animals are being raised. I know the pastures are not getting sprayed with herbicide and turned into monocultures. I know at least my farm is trying to find a balance between land and wildlife and livestock. Every year, I sell a few beef calves. In our freezer, we usually have at least some home-processed and/or home-raised venison and pork – pork courtesy of family members who raise hogs. We haven’t butchered a beef in a couple years, but hopefully we will have another soon. Did you know that 99% percent of a beef is used for either food or by-products? Research it. Beef by-products are used in everything from shortening to chewing gum to lipsticks to insulin to tires to camera film and toilet paper.

The small flock of free-range hens provides more than enough delicious, orange-yolked eggs for us and enough to sell to pay for their own feed. Extra roosters hatched out by broodies go into the freezer. I sometimes hatch out chicks for my own flock or to sell. Goat milk is used to feed bottle kids, replacement doelings, or eventual meat kids. I've made cheese, I've used milk for chickens and my family's pig, and we drink it.

The orchard is young and the garden is small, but it is so nice to SEE it, to watch it grow from a seed or young plant or sapling. It can be a gigantic pain – storms splitting laden trees, wildlife helping themselves to almost-ripe fruit, a late frost decimating the blooms – but it is a conscious effort to produce and eventually consume something wholesome. At least the bees and other pollinators are enjoying the flowers I have planted! The top field produced hay in 2019! The few acres made around 10 small round bales, and that is a start! I can point out the window at my dollars working. I see the animals, the pastures, the fences, the barns – the money does not dead-end in a single automobile that will never reproduce or provide food, or improve the quality of the land. Farming is an ambitious, often difficult lifestyle. It is my favorite thing, and it breaks my heart. Farming is a drive to produce with a conscience, to improve the land every year and the animals with each generation. The farm is baptized in my blood and sweat and tears. Do not call my farm a hobby. - Kendra R.S.


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