My name is Kelly and I am a farmer. I raise animals that provide meat, dairy, and eggs for my family’s table. These animals also produce fertilizer for my gardens. I am going to make a couple of disclaimers here – I don’t farm because the Republicans are going to ruin the food supply with their economic and political policies and I don’t farm because the Democrats are going to ruin the food supply with their economic and political food policies. Lastly, I do not farm because I believe that raw milk and organic vegetables are the panaceas of life. I have no desire to live forever, only a deep desire to live well.
I farm because I am a farmer. Waking up each morning to sit under that cow even before I’ve had my coffee, getting up in the middle of the night to be sure the new calf is nursing, dabbing molasses on her paws to cure the bunny’s post-labor shakes, cradling a warm egg in my well-calloused palm, caressing my face with a newborn chick, smoothing soil over freshly transplanted roots, balancing atop a March apple tree to cut off a few branches, studying seed catalogs and agricultural books, cooking a meal from food I grew and loved from beginning to end, and yes shoveling piles o’poop – it all makes me a farmer – makes me me. A deeply content version of me.
I don’t mean to present a falsely rosy picture of farming. Most days I hurt somewhere. A cow-stomped toe, a saw-weary shoulder, a tree-bumped head, a wire-pierced hand. There are farm days I could do without. The day Annabelle trampled my favorite chicken. The day a hawk swooped in, stealing another one, or two chickens. The day my oldest chicken, Snow White, fell into a water pail and drowned. The week I butchered thirty-something chickens. The day Annabelle ate twenty seven brussel sprout plants. The day I drove Shasta to the butcher. The day I drove Annabelle to the butcher(not because of the brussel sprouts!). The day I got a Cease and Desist letter from the Conservation Commission. The days and dollars I spent to establish a conservation compliant farm. The days I spend trying to milk, fighting the flies whilst also trying to fend of the cow’s fly-beating tail. It can be pretty grim.
Farming can be pretty grim. Farming is life condensed. A month of farm life is the equivalent to something like ten years of life life. Something like that. I hope you laugh with me and cry with me as I try to translate my experiences on Penny Tree Farm to print.