Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Hurried Life of a Beginning Farmer...

Let me start by saying that the life of any farmer is extremely busy, especially in seasons where the farm work needs to be done on time. But, with that being said the life of this particular beginning farmer is becoming insanely busy as we come into spring and all that goes with it. Managing time is probably one of the most important aspects of any farm, and that is especially true of farmers who are starting out, continuing to work a full-time "town job", and figure out how to do everything else along the way. My schedule has ballooned because of all of that, plus the fact that soccer season has now started, there is/was the big push to finish the inside of the house, and because we are starting completely from scratch.

(After my faith and family) My work at the church has to come at the top of the list because it is my passion and the lively hood for our family. After that I do have a certain amount (because of a contract and a commitment) obligation to soccer which usually takes about about two-and-a-half hours each weekday. Then there comes the farm/house work ... the daily chores, the fencing that must go up to get the new pigs in, the fencing that must go up to get the cattle out on pasture when the grass greens, the planning that needs to be done as we build a farm out of nothing, and so much more.

I often find myself wondering, "What in the world are we doing. Why did we think we could get 40 acres of land with nothing but trees and grass and make it into a working farm ... people just don't do that very often ... especially people without very much money". But, after I get done thinking that I immediately realize how passionate we are about doing what we are doing.

To me that is one of the pieces of success (not the only piece). And, maybe that passion and excitement about what you are doing and the way you are doing it is something that is missing from agricultural and our world in general. Others have said (and I have repeated it often) that, "you have time for what you want to have time for and money for what you want to have money for."

I realize that isn't true in all situations (I might want 80 more acres owned free and clear, but I don't have money for it and no matter how much I cut back it wouldn't happen for a long time), but there is a great principle there about looking at the priorities in your life and meeting those needs above the desires of the world.

For me that means that I'm going to make time for my family and our farm ... no matter what earthly sacrifices it takes. And, as I do that I grow a deeper appreciation for those farmers and families that settled in Iowa years and years ago.


John said...

I have the same issues, 40 acres, no fences and a full time job. I often look around and start to feel overwhelmed. What helps me is to think about how to move the ball forward a little bit each day. Whether a large or small task, try to make a bit of progress. Over time you can see that this helps a lot.

Brad said...

Our 30 acres pose the same problems. Work full-time, coach baseball, National Guard and full-time working spouse. I can say for certain I will never have enough time in a day to accomplish my to-do list, but I am the happiest I've ever been in my life, just trying! The soreness, long hours and occasional anger outburst actually brings our family closer together, as we all take interest in tomorrow. Fencing is our current project, and if we can make it through this, nothing will stop us.

sugarcreekfarm said...

We seem to be at an interesting crossroads. We also have our jobs & the farm, which keep us busy enough. But our kids are now at an age where they're busy with their own things - sports, 4-H, music, etc.

With a farm, there are times that things just have to be done, no matter what else is going on. At the same time, kids grow up so fast and I want to be there for that. So when M has a softball game at the same time as I'm supposed to be at farmers market...I have to make a choice. (That's going to happen for the first time this summer, so I haven't got it figured out yet!)

There's also the issue that, as teenagers, they have their own interests that may or may not include the farm. How much do we expect from them without pushing our dream onto them? A vegetable farmer friend said that his kids got so burned out on it as teenagers that they won't even plant a garden now that they're grown and have kids of their own.

I've got no answers yet, just thinking out loud here :)

Jena said...

I have days where I throw my hands up and practically beg my husband to sell out and get a nice little house with something like 10 acres instead of 74. Then we have a lamb safely born or sell 300 bales of hay and I remember why we're here: because we do love this life.

Yeoman said...

Okay, speaking of hurried lives, allow me to ask a question.

Before I do, allow me to apologize to Ethan, as this is sort of in the nature of blog hijacking.

Anyhow, I'm sick of my hurried life, and I don't mean the cattle raising part of it. In spite of a national recession, depression, or whatever the heck it is, my town job has taken over my life.

And by "town job", I ought to state "state job", as I'm traveling all over the state now days as I have work all over the state.

I should be thrilled, right? Well, I'm not. I'm sick of traveling, which I don't like to do anyhow And I'm sick of staying in hotels. I'm sick of being out on the road in nasty weather. And, being a lawyer, I'm sick of being in the court, and I'm sick of arguing with a bunch of pinheads, which would describe, in my opinion, most lawyers (contrary to popular conception, it is not an occupation occupied by the intelligent).

In other words, I'm desperate.

I'm at the point where I'd really like to go full time with agriculture.

So why don't I?

Well, the economics of it. I have loans out on my cattle to build up my herd. I can't afford to buy any grazing ground, as it takes so much of it here to really operate, and the price has gone through the roof thanks to Californians and the like, who buy up busted up places in the hopes of putting too many horses on small acreages and grazing it down to dirt (in trying to find some ground, for example, I recently ran across an add where some woman employed in the university at Berkley was thrilled with the 35 acres she bought on the high plains outside of Laramie, so she can ride, when she retires "every day". Hah, it's arctic on the Laramie plains 9 months out of the year, but if you had a career in California, stay there darn it, when you retire, rather than wipe out opportunities for us here.)

Yes, I'm ranting.

But yes, I'm desperate.


How can I dump this stupid town job and be full time ag?



Prayers (I mean it) would be most welcome.

Rich said...

Yeoman, I understand why a person would want to stay in familiar and/or scenic surroundings, but as hard as it sounds, have you considered moving to a different part of the country where land costs, carrying capacities, etc. are more favorable?

I would think that buying or leasing opportunities somewhere like Kansas, Nebraska, or Oklahoma would be much more affordable than closer to home in Wyoming. Instead of needing 10,000 acres in Wyoming to be profitable, something closer to 1000 acres in the area within a 200-mile radius of Dodge City would be as profitable and much more affordable. After all, doesn’t this line of thinking explain why people retire in the West instead of in California?

Besides land being more affordable, you might be able to create some business opportunities or advantages that would help you get established. With your family and business connections back in WY, you could possibly arrange to over-winter WY cattle in KS, or you could run some sort of partnered stocker operation (but I’m not sure about moving cattle from north to south is the best way to put weight on stockers), or something similar that would take advantage of your ties to WY.

With the right amount of searching and flexibility, I bet you could even find property that would fit your idea of ranching almost anywhere (using horses, etc.)

Of course, the scenery would be much different in the Flint Hills of KS or NW Oklahoma compared to WY, but you can’t always eat the scenery, and different sceneries are usually just different instead of better or worse. It might also be a hard sell to convince your immediate family to move to someplace like the Southern Plains, but it also might not be as hard as you think.

Good luck, and I hope my thoughts and ideas help you in some small way.

Yeoman said...

Rich, thanks. I appreciate your thoughts, and those are ideas that hadn't occurred to me, and may very well be worth looking at.

Steven said...

Yeoman, I feel your pain, and especially with recently being laid off, I wish I could turn a profit from farming more now than ever. But, I believe that God has a plan and I don't have enough knowledge or experience to make it farming yet so I'll keep taking it slow for now. :-(
When I read your post and read about how people are buying up land around you and it's hard to acquire it made me think of Greg Judy. He writes alot about their business model and how much of their land is rented. He describes how he tries to get the owners involved just enough to keep them happy and even excited about what he's doing. This keeps him in a good position to keep those leases long term.
One thing he is doing is allowing the land owner to run a few cows in his "mob" so that the owner can bring their city friends out to see "their cows" and then he gets to market their calves with his, making a larger group of calves at the market, and higher prices. Or at least that's the idea. He said that when the owners start to learn about his mob grazing and how it's building soil quality, and making healthy cows, etc. they get excited and build that relationship with him and the farm.
So, in short, maybe you don't have to own the land!

Yeoman said...

Steven, I'm sorry to hear you were laid off. And I agree about the mysterious ways of God's plans. The homily this Sunday was all about suffering of all types, which came after I'd written my entry (rant?). I'm afraid that I'm not very good at offering up my suffering.

I'm not very good anymore about appreciating things long term either, I'm afraid. I've been doing this job for about 20 years, and used to always sort of have an eye towards the future on it. Everyone keeps telling me that "you should be grateful" for having too much work and being employed. I suppose I should be. But I'm having a hard time doing that.

Leasing ground might be my only option here locally. If I could lease enough, and find a way to stock it, that might offer some hope. I was pondering that the other day and wondering if I could even do 20 years leases. That'd take me up to age 65 anyhow.

Steven said...

Thanks Yeoman. I should have said that I have found work. I'm currently working full-time / temporary for a guy. But in a couple of months insurance will be a problem so I'm not settled in for the long haul yet. Going along with "God having a plan", I'm having more fun, and learning more now than I was at my last job so being laid off hasn't been so bad. I also was able to spend a couple of weeks being mostly at home with my wife and our new little girl. :-)

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