"Are you sure you just want to farm? Don't you want to do something more with your life?"
These were the questions posed to me by my well-meaning teachers when I declared in high school that I was going to farm after graduation. In their eyes, I was wasting my talents by staying on the farm. For generations, this has been the fostered attitude here in the country; you grow up, move to the city as soon as you can, get an education, make good money and you'll be happier there than out here in the sticks.
There wasn't a whole lot of support or encouragement given to anyone with aspirations of staying. Sadly, the decades of this attitude has meant the decimation of our small communities and reliance upon large, urban centres.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those who did move away, or went and furthered their education and pursued their dreams elsewhere. Their talents and abilities are certainly cherished and needed in this world. I am just hoping that this is what they actually wanted. Because it seems that when our children are being guided, it often comes down to "coulds" and "shoulds" rather than "wants" and "callings."
There has been a definite trend in small-town families encouraging their kids to go "live a better life" elsewhere, but I can't help but wonder if it was encouraged by those who simply couldn't see the treasure they had.
My own parents experienced the same questions from their teachers;
"But you're too smart to farm, you could be anything you want," was what my mother was told.
In other words, "only idiots would stay and farm, so go make something of yourself."
So she and my father did give a life in the city a try. It lasted about a year and in that time they found themselves so miserable and longing for the farm that they moved home and never looked back. It proved to be a great learning experience, and needless to say, my mother's impeccable book-keeping abilities, coupled with her and my father's skills, work ethic, pioneer spirit, and love of the natural world has served them well as self-employed farmers. And fortunately, they both came from farming families who encouraged them.
Why they chose to farm is for the exact reasons why I chose to farm; it allowed a way of life that I wanted to have, for both myself, and for my children.
I cringe when I hear people speak of their gruelling commutes to get to work every day. The stress of traffic and the time that they are losing out of their days. This short, winding road through the trees (a leisurely half a minute drive) takes me to my chores. It is a pure joy to drive, walk, or ride a bike on. The only traffic is perhaps a fellow family member or a chattering red squirrel.
"Take your kids to work day" can happen whenever we please, and quite often school is skipped so that valuable lessons from home can be focused upon.
Country living provides fresh air for my children to breathe, clean water to drink, nutritious food that we grow and raise ourselves, and a safe environment for them to run free, connect with Nature, and learn about themselves. And from what I hear, the cost of living is far cheaper as well. So given this advantage, not as much has to be made to get by.
The view from my "office" changes daily and with the seasons,
and I get to keep company with the kindest of creatures.
My co-workers are also my companions, and their loyalty has no equal.
When I was 19 I went to work at a local seed dealer for a seasonal spring job. It lasted two months, and in that two months I learned the very valuable lesson of how good I had it at home, working with people who love and care for me and would never take advantage of my work ethic. I also learned that I would do whatever it takes to always be my own boss, and to treat my own children with the same kindness and respect in which my parents had always treated me.
I was fortunate to find a partner who enjoys this way of life as much as I do, and understands that quality time together often means quality time spent working together. You learn to take what you can get.
While it is true that life in the country, especially on a farm, has its challenges, I have found that the rewards far outweigh them. While we have to work in all kinds of weather and have days where we are literally covered in shit, there is great beauty in being in constant connection and rhythm with Nature.
I feel the sun rise each and every day, in the summer months when it is strong, and in the winter when it is subtle.
Every evening as I make supper, I can watch it sink into the landscape from my kitchen window.
As a farmer, it is impossible to schedule holidays, and so one has to learn the art of flexibility and embracing opportunities as they arise.
At one time I used to wonder how my life would have turned out had I not stayed here in the country and had my family. What if I would have "pursued" writing? I've since come to know that I wouldn't have had anything to write about. They would have been empty words because my soul is fulfilled here.
Looking back, I can't help but admire that young girl who knew where she needed to be and what she wanted. Life certainly hasn't always gone as I planned, there have been bumps and detours along the way, but it definitely worked out for the best as it got me here. I also appreciate my parents who supported my decision and empowered me to listen to my heart.
I'm not sure if my own children will want to farm or stay in the country, as I know it isn't for everyone, but I will certainly try to provide every opportunity that I can to help them if they choose to stay, or to come back one day, such as my parents provided for me.
Perhaps they will need to leave and spread their wings. Perhaps they will find another place that calls to them and feels like home. Or maybe they will be called back to the land that loves them, seasoned with life experiences and lessons.
Whether they choose to stay or not, may they choose a way of life that fulfills them, not simply a logical occupation that pays the bills. One that nourishes their soul, not depletes it. A way of life where they look forward to rising every day, living their passion while expressing the joy that lives within them. A life where they are truly sharing their gifts.
In a society that has fallen into the traps of over-stimulation and competition, and come to equate happiness with money and success with a title, I feel it is time to refocus on the simple pleasures of life; healthy food, a safe, clean environment for our children to grow into who they are, and time to enjoy one another and see the magic that is in this world around us.