On Becoming a Farmer
Since we started up Fat Apple early this year, I've been asked by many people, "Why become a farmer?" It's a fair question. I grew up in suburbia and come most recently from software engineering and city living, so the change of focus to pigs and shit and mud is nontrivial.
But I've always felt a strong emotional connection to farming; my grandfather was a dairy farmer in Cayuga County, NY, and some of my earliest and best memories are spending holidays on the farm where my mother and aunts and uncle grew up. As young children, my sister and cousins and I would roam the countryside, fish the turtle pond, get stung by wasps, pick apples from abandoned orchards, swing from the barn rafters, marvel at the barn's mechanical manure gutter.
Though I wasn't considering agriculture as a career in high school, I remember in my sophomore year filling out a vocational test intentionally to make sure it would suggest "farmer," a high act of suburban anarchy. My friends laughed; my guidance counsellor was nonplussed.
As an adult, when I encountered Wendell Berry's proposition that "eating is an agricultural act," I began to realize that we are all strongly connected to farming, whether we know it or not. It's one of those insights that is both indisputably true, that eating food requires some farm somewhere to produce that food, and yet somehow non-obvious until pointed out to you. When I learned about the disgrace of modern factory farming, I realized there were some farms I'd rather not be producing my food.
Several years ago I joined the CSA of John's first farm, Fat Stock, and got to visit and see the care he put into raising healthy and happy animals. I felt again that emotional connection to farming, felt the loop being closed. And when the opportunity arose to get out from behind the computer, get on the land and help be a part of the solution to the sorry state of modern food production, I jumped.
So, why become a farmer? I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to that question. I think the truth is, I’ve always been a farmer.