Hubby and I went to a dinner theatre, last night, as a last-chance date before I go out to Saskatchewan (he is staying behind until we get possession of the acreage). Hubby got the last two tickets available, and we wound up sitting with another couple at a four-seat table. There was quite a stretch of time between dinner being finished and the play beginning, so we struck up a conversation with our table mates.
Turns out, they were farmers, and had driven an hour into town to get a little culture. I mentioned that we were moving on to an acreage soon, and that eventually we’d be moving out to a farm, ourselves. They have been farming grain and cattle for 30 or 40 years, and seemed like real salt-of-the-earth folks. The conversation revolved around water wells, cisterns, cows, and Mexico vs. Cuba for vacation destinations.
After, as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Hubby commented that our table mates were probably sitting in their truck right now, shaking their heads at us. He commented that they probably think we’re completely crazy. I mean, who would want to get into farming? It is hard work, and the pay is the pits. Around here, most farmers are in debt up to their eyeballs, and the vast majority of farmers I know have an off-farm job.
I told Hubby that we have a couple of advantages. We don’t know what’s impossible. And I already have a good off-farm job.
We’re never going to be wheat farmers. The equipment costs so much, we would never be able to afford it, and still compete with the huge grain farms in our area. But I think there is a market for local tree foods – the 100 mile diet is in the popular lexicon, and we’re within 100 miles of a couple of decent sized cities. Wheat and chicken and potatoes and beef and lentils are easy – these are major Prairie crops, so they are common, and relatively cheap. I bet folks would really love to be able to get their hands on 100-mile hazelnuts, though, or 100-mile apricots, and I would additionally bet that they would pay a premium in order to do so. Especially if they were also organic. There are lots of niche-market options, and we’ve half a mind to try several. Planting and watering a few dozen trees is a far cry from farming wheat. These are crops that don’t need a lot of space or machinery or money to get into…just some foresight and time.
Now, we’re never going to get rich selling locavore hazelnuts at the farmer’s market. I do think, though, if we plan and market and manage well, we can make our income exceed our outgo. And have our ideal lifestyle while we’re at it, with space to roam, good food that we grow ourselves, and a job for hubby that does not involve selling his soul to someone else for 40 hours a week. If we can manage that, by our own accounting, we’ve won.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re not actually crazy, either…