Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What Are You Willing to Sacrafice...

This post may be more along the lines of a philosophical post rather than an informational post, but it is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit as we discuss, dream, research, and plan for our hopeful move to farming. Right now my family (wife and two children) lives a pretty frugal life. We don't eat out much, we don't eat prepared foods, my wife is a very frugal shopper, we don't have extravagant things or clothes, and we keep track of our spending very closely so we know where our money is going. Besides that, we really try to keep our "stuff" level down. If we are bring things in we try to move things out that we don't need or used (sometimes we sell, sometimes we give, and sometimes we donate). In the long run we believe that will save us money, space, and frustration. Basically we are always looking for ways to save a little here and a little there.

By the worlds standards we may be a little "overly frugal" or cheap! Because of our watchful eye we have been able to stay out of debt and able to save money each year. But, we are always looking for ways to cut corners because we know that in order to get to the farm we will need to sacrifice. Sacrifice is something that my generation doesn't always handle too well. I will be the first to admit that I was raised in a pretty comfortable life. We were no where near wealthy, but my family sacrificed so that I could have a lot of the things that I desired. That is the case for most of the people in my generation and now that we have reached adulthood we don't really want to go through the same stages that our parents went through.

Oftentimes we don't realize that our parents spent time living in small houses or not ever eating out because all we remember was our nice three or four bedroom house and weekly pizza take-outs or eating out. But, if we are going to be able to reach our dream of farming we are going to have to make sacrifices now and as we truly begin the farm.

So, what are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to scale back the "American Dream" lifestyle (probably a good idea no matter what you want to do)? Are you ready to simplify your life by not purchasing or hording as many "things"? I believe you will only be able to reach your goals if you sacrifice. In the coming weeks I am going to be spending some time putting together some goals for they farm dream in the next year. In doing that I'm also going to have to spend some time thinking of sacrifices that I can make to reach those goals.


Yeoman said...

This is an excellent topic.

I have some random observations (and hope I don't bore poor readers to tears in doing this), and some specific ones.

First of all, the perceived sacrifice of rural families is a very real matter in farming and ranching today. I hear all the time, mostly from older agriculturalist, that their kids or grandkids are not going to take over the operation, as they can have "better" jobs in town. Well, in my case, I have one of those "better" jobs in town, as did my father. Neither of us opted for that, as we were both victims of untimely deaths, etc., that necessitated this. I'm lucky to still have a hand in agriculture at that.

But the perception of a "better" life is a false one. Generally, all the "better" life equates to is one which is richer in superficialities. You can get better tv reception, better internet collections, and a lot more junk in a town job. And, in the end, that's what you end up with. A phony job, about phony things, which allows you to buy phony stuff.

Harsh view, I know.

Still, it's a very common view. I've been around agriculturalist my entire life. There has never been a point in my family's history, on the paternal side, in which our family has not been directly involved in agriculture, at least since we got off the boats in the 1840s. In spite of that, as I have a "good" job, and my father did as well, even other farmers and ranchers, and even other farmers and ranchers with an off farm job, tend to view my situation as different than theirs, and sort of assume farming and ranching is an exotic hobby. They're driving truck to get by, lets say, and I'm practicing law to get by, and we're all sinking our off farm income into our agricultural endeavors, but society has so prejudiced in our views of work, it isn't seen that way.

Let me take that one step further, however, and note an observation I've often had. As anyone viewing my profile knows, and as anyone who might remember my now long dead blog would know, I'm a lawyer, as I noted, as well as a stockman. That's let me see a lot of both worlds. And, to be clear, I didn't come into livestock in an artificial manner, that is as a "big city", "successful" lawyer who bought a ranch (I wish I could afford to buy ground, but I can't). Rather, I came about it the way that is common here, that is my ancestors were in it, and I've tried to retain a hand.

I note that for purposes of this observation. Here, in my very rural area, you see this common progression. Homesteaders scrape by their whole life in order to hand down a mostly debt free place to their kids. Kid Generation #1 works hard trying to afford to send Generation #2 to college, so that they can get a "good" job, and not have to bother with all that "hard" work. Generation #2 does just that, and goes to work in that "good" job, learning that they really don't like it much. They work hard to send Generation #3 to college for a "better" "good" job. Generation #3 works hard to buy a farm or ranch, thereby putting themselves exactly back to where Homesteaders started off.

Now, what that tell us? Perhaps the sacrifice isn't as much of a sacrifice as we might think.

And, another little secret. Even though agricultural work is "hard" work, it isn't. It's hard in terms of expended labor, and effort, but as its worthwhile work, which very little modern work is, it's not hard to engage in. Most of those "good" town jobs, on the other hand, are very hard work. They're hard in terms of actual effort, and their hard in terms of mental effort, as so few are actually worth doing, other than that we have no other choice.

Okay, Yeoman, you're saying. That's great for you. Well. . . here's the next problem.

Having said all that, let me now go to the next step in sacrifices, which is, what if our families don't quite agree with our perceived vocation? That is, how much of our family bliss are we willing to sacrifice. Again, a personal example.

I've worked quite a few jobs over the years. I''ve been a lawyer now, I'm ashamed to admit, for nearly 18 years. I was in a physical science briefly before that. I've been in the Army. So I've seen a lot of odd jobs. My wife, on the other hand, grew up on ranch/farm (we met at a rodeo). She knew only that life before we married, other than a brief stint in college she did, and a short period of time working in town. What she is quite aware of, however, is that the house we live in is much nicer than the ranch house was. Our kids get to go to a lot of activities that she didn't when she was a girl, as we live in town (I commute to do ag work). From time to time I suggest trying for some remote place, and she's always against it. Truth be known, she really doesn't want us to depend on agriculture alone, as it would entail sacrifices that she perceives, and which I probably fail to fully appreciate.

So, in that case, the sacrifice would be not recognized by me, but would be by my spouse. That's be a sacrifice of a different type, but is it one that we can really do? I don't want to suggest it would end in a true disaster, but clearly, our decisions are made much more difficult if we, and our spouses, do not all share the same goal.

I think, fwiw, this problem is pretty common. I've noted it with a lot of us middle aged stockmen. We're glad to be away from town. But our kids and wives are not.

Tim said...

A great initial post, and a GREAT reply by yeoman.

In the end, everything in life is a sacrifice isn't it? If you want city/urban life, you can make more money, have more technology, have more urban stimulation (pro sports, night clubs, shopping, etc.) and so on...but you might find you long for access to a more simple/outdoors life. So you go camping.

If you want the rural life, you can grow your own food, know your neighbors, know every birth and death in the community and have an identity yourself. But you might not be able to get online, and you'll likely give up sushi.

Everything is a sacrifice, but for me, I'll take the country and maybe spend the night in the city every now and then to catch a game, eat out or whatever. But day to day, you can have the traffic of the highway. I'll take the tractor.

Nature's Harmony Farm

Ethan Book said...

Thanks for the thoughts Yeoman and Tim! I do agree that living in an agricultural setting is often viewed as a sacrifice, but I believe it is really nothing close to that and probably those things that I mentioned in the original posts are perceived sacrifices not real sacrifices. If you are living a materialistic life more will never be enough, but if you are living a simple life the more is always a blessing and the enjoyment is greater. Another thing about the farm life is that I believe it is more about family. I know all to well the millions of activities that kids these days are involved in. On the surface it seems like a great thing for them to be involved in, but really ... what would the miss by not having to run all over town all of the time? I think they would gain so much more!

Plus, Tim ... I don't think giving up RAW FISH is a sacrifice ... that is really a blessing!!! :) I like my food cooked and yummy.

Yeoman said...

"Another thing about the farm life is that I believe it is more about family."

I think that's absolutely correct.

One thing that has really pained me as I've grown older, and had to defer making agriculture my sole livelihood, as I had hoped to do, is the realization on how much those of us with a full time "good" job miss, in terms of being with our kids. And not only in terms of being with them, but in how we are with them.

My wife often points out to me that my office job has allowed her to stay home and be with the kids, which she very much wanted to do, and which I've been happy to be able to help her do. At the same time, I can't help but note how full time ag families allow the the family to be together all the time, and together in meaningful work. My father in law, for example, never had to separate being with his kids from his profession, and even at an early age, his kids were able to see him working, and be part of the work, in work that was fun, and meaningful. Almost all of us who work in white collar office jobs cannot do that. That's the very reason we have Take Your Kid to Work Day, or things of that nature, in which city kids are exposed to jobs much the same way they're exposed to animals. I.E., in a zoo like fashion.

I am lucky in that my kids have been able to participate in cattle operations with me, and they do not regard it as exotic. I still hope, although its sort of hoping against hope, that we might some day be able to do that full time. It is truly a more family centered lifestyle.

And I'm with you Ethan. Raw fish is, um. . .bait.

Tim said...

Speak for yourself Ethan...I'm back in Atlanta today and my wife and I are getting our sushi fix tonight.

But...given that I just built a 2 acre catfish pond, I'm with you yeoman. Raw fish can be bait too!


Ethan Book said...

Okay Tim ... you just keep the sushi down there in the south. I don't know if we can handle it up here in Iowa :)

Catfish pond ... I thought every pond in the south had a be a bass pond? At least that is what I would do with it, but catfish are good also.

IluvABbeef said...

When I read this topic I had some viewpoints and two-cents on that thing about sacrificing the "wants" for the "necessities".

But after reading yeoman's comment, I started realizing he said it all.

Great post Ethan.

Walter Jeffries said...

My mother once told my girlfriend I was a cheap, penny pincher. I think she was proud. She and my father were Depression children and raised me to squeeze those pennies hard. I'm working to pass those values on to our kids. We live a good life and it doesn't have to cost a lot.

There is one thing we have today that is a wonderful addition - the Internet. It brings the best of the world to our doorstep. With it we are able to do research that even a good library can't match. Internet access and clean rural living make for a winning combo.

Krystle, SelfmadeFarmer.com said...

The flip side view - the one that I find more encouraging - is to look at what you AREN'T willing to sacrifice, because those are your values. For me, that includes time with family, profitability, meaningful work, and variety from day to day. Anything else, I'm willing to let go of (sacrifice) in light of my values.

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