Originally published here on 4/1/14.
Over the melon field at Broadturn Farm, Scarborough, ME.
Traditionally speaking, I’ve never been a farmer. The title implies land ownership, independence, and ruggedness. Having never been a land owner or numero uno on a farm and certainly having never cut a rugged figure, I didn’t think it right to call myself a farmer. (I did bend on this rule when a former boss, an actual farmer, pointed out how goofy “agricultural practitioner” looked in my email signature and told me it was okay to call myself a farmer, if just for brevity’s sake.)
The fantasy has of course crossed my mind, of owning and cultivating a unique landscape, of being food independent, of that farming life that is a distinct dream despite what a nightmare it can sometimes be. My farm dream is based on an image that simply popped into my head one day and has rested, patiently, in the back of my mind since, with occasional elaboration. The image is of myself, walking along the edge of a long, glass greenhouse that stretches off some distance, ending at a still-young crop of rye which eventually yields further off to a wooded hillside. The greenhouse is steamed up because it is holding a lot of heat, which is helping it to grow a variety of tropical plants, from banana to pepper to tea. I am walking along the mowed margin of the greenhouse, followed closely by a pack of about half a dozen dogs, some who are nimble herders, some who prowl at night keeping the hens safe, one who is an expert ratter, and one who has been around awhile and doesn’t do much besides be the lovable alpha dog. From this single image of my future self, the mental construction of my farm has grown dramatically because, if we’re just fantasizing anyway, why not add a brewery and distillery and a flour mill?
I’ve mulled this dream over enough times that I am fairly convinced that, one day, I will be at that farm, doing my work, and realize I’ve walked into that image that popped into my head so many years earlier, with all the dogs cavorting around me in the clover. I’ve also tempered this dream and questioned what it would take to get there and what would have to happen in my life to grab hold of it. The answer is a lot. It would require changes for which I am not prepared yet. I want to be part of the work of creating more successful farmers and impacting our food system in that way, which means that my farm dream will continue to wait with due patience. I believe it will be there waiting for me, and since I learn something new and useful about farming every day anyway, every day I get a little closer and a little more prepared.
This is what our Farm Dreams workshops are about, in the end. If you’ve happened upon this blog, and even moreso if you’ve read this far, I would bet you are one of those folks who know what I mean by the smell of warmth, the “breath of spring”. Not the feeling of heat, but the smell of the earth gaining energy. (As it turns out, that is the smell of actinomycetes in the soil as they first stir to life. Science loves to pick fights with poetry.) For those conscious of this smell, it is titillating. It heralds spring, and hope, before any robins or flush of green. It refreshes the farm dream in me every year (on this, the first day of April, my mind drifts constantly out the window), and I’m sure that it does for you too. We offer these workshops because we want to help you discover if this year is finally your year. Come join us at any of our five workshops (more here) and discover how we can help you live the farm dream. Let us help you find your greenhouse-rye-tropical plants-pack-of-dogs happy place and let yourself dream a little.
The author, having a farm dream.