By Michelle Howell, needmoreacres.com
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 8:00 AM CST
Nathan has been farming since the day he was born. He was born onto a real, hard workin’, wake up to feed the pigs, cows, and break the ice on the pond farm in Hart County, Kentucky. He doesn’t remember a day where there wasn’t a job to be done alongside his dad on the farm. I was raised across the country in California, but always had a desire to settle in on a farm with a large family. So after ten years of marriage, many hopes and dreams (some of them came to reality, but most of them didn’t) and a lot of hard work and preparation this is the year. This is the year that we break free from what has been holding us back and step into the life we’ve been given.
This is the year that we farm full time.
There is this feeling in our culture that we can have it all. The job, the house, the kids, the hobby, endless time to do whatever we want, whenever we want. And maybe some people can find it, but we sure weren’t able to. Two years ago we were hurting. There was this life we wanted and these kids we were raising and we just couldn’t seem to make it work. Things got tough. We let the world come crashing in on us and it nearly left us wiped out.
*There were days when I couldn’t look my kids in the eyes because the regrets were so big.
*We would sit in silence hoping that someone would speak words of life, but they never did.
*We were working hard like a mouse on a wheel without accomplishing any of the things most important to us.
*The days, weeks, months and years were slipping away.
But as it almost always happens the hurting, hard days made us stronger. We came out on the other side ready to give it a try. There was nothing left to lose. We had the courage to say yes to what our hearts were trying to convince our minds to do.
Community (from a different angle)
The truth is the timing just wasn’t right back then. It’s been a process and I know it will continue to be. If we had followed this call on our life eight years ago (when I became a stay at home mom) or 5 years ago (when we decided to homeschool) or 4 years ago (when we started eating a local food diet) or 3 years ago (when we decided to have a homebirth) or two years ago (when we decided to help start a farmers market)…I guess you get the point. If we had started during any of those times in our life then our decision would have been all about us. We would have been proud of ourselves and thought we were more special than we really were. We would have missed out on the unique opportunity to see our community in a different way.
Had we dug into how we felt two years ago we would have sold everything, moved to a farm in the middle of nowhere, grown food to feed ourselves and a few others willing to seek us out. Now we know that wasn’t the calling for us. You may be reading this and feel that it is your calling to which we say “good for you”. Seriously. We are so happy and even slightly jealous for people who are called to live like that. We always thought it would be the way for us.
The truth is that we have been able to combine our past lives with our current ones in order to see this whole simple living, sustainability thing as something for everyone. It’s not all or nothing, not for most people anyway. The resources that are in place through the local school systems, health departments, universities, non-profits and organizations are complex, but important. We worked for them and have seen the ways that everyday people can find them useful and allow them to work for them. We’ve been able to become a common ground voice in order to make strides in connection for our community. We’ve been blessed to serve others and to be served in return.
It really starts with food. When my second child was born she was taken away and put in the warmer. I didn’t feel like a mother. There was something missing from the experience and I immediately felt as if her first days would be similar to my first child. I would be unable to feed her from my breast as I had hoped. Then something happened. She was unable to take a bottle. She had to breastfeed. This was the moment that the world began to look different for me. Nathan feels the same way. It was when we really began to examine how our decisions and everyday habits really matter. Life doesn’t just happen to us and we have the ability to make things better. No matter where we are or how far we have to come.
When it came time for Elizabeth to start eating solid foods I couldn’t help but ask myself “what foods are as good, wholesome and perfect as this milk my body has made for her”? Nathan was selling watermelons at a local farmers market and I began buying food from the farmers. Betsy & Steve, Thomas, Bobby. We began finding sources for milk, cheese, bread, and meats. This deep connection to my family sent me searching connection to my community through food. We began growing more and more of our own food with a desire to be able to share it with others.
When I held my daughter soon after birth I began to feel a connection to myself as a woman that I had never felt before. There was this strength within me that was completely new. When I became pregnant with my third child I started seeking other women who had choose to have a natural birth. I went into every conversation expecting to hear words of pain, fear and hardship. What was poured out to me instead were words of love, faith, strength, determination and hope. That was what I wanted to feel as I gave birth to our children.
When it became time for our fourth child to be born we chose to hire a certified midwife and give birth at home. Being low risk, informed and fully prepared allowed us to have a beautiful birth experience that our entire family shared. My hope is that our birth experience will leave a deep imprint on our children’s life allowing them to find grace and peace when they have children of their own. And I hope that it has also helped women in our community find what they have been looking for as they become mothers.
When I think about community these days I think about Jordan and Jackson who were recently married at Community Farmers Market surrounded by their family, old friends and new community of farmers and artists. I think of them because I see in them what we were searching for back when we got married. I’m thankful that they are finding it now and seeing it for what it really is. It’s hard work, but deeply rewarding. It takes a lot of work to live in community with others. Especially when that community represents such a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, interests and most importantly paths. Community is not about surrounding yourself with people just like you, but seeking to trust, understand and lift up those around you. It’s accepting others and allowing them to really know who you are so they have the chance to accept you in return. It’s messy and beautiful at the same time.
I’m thankful for the people that we have in our lives. Too many to name, living all over the world, and all called to different ways of living, but a blessing on us each and every day. I’m thankful for farmers who are willing to work really hard every day of the week for people who just buy a coupe of vegetables on Saturday or for those who buy almost all of their food locally. I’m thankful for the government that is full of real people with names and interests and most importantly have a sense of humor. I’m thankful for artists willing to pour their heart and soul into something and then share it with the world. I’m thankful for moms, dads and people who care about these babies being born into our world who will one day be making all of the decisions that we are making now.
Most of all I’m thankful for forgiveness. To those who watched us change, sometimes drastically and overnight, thank you for for patiently allowing (and forgiving when needed) our questioning, retreating, and even anger at times. It’s how we found the courage to do what we are doing now. It’s how we found patience, understanding and caring of each new person we encounter. We really don’t know what’s left in this life for us. Will we always Need More Acres? We just don’t know. But I do know that we hope to learn to love better, give more freely and more willingly accept those things from others.
A few thoughts from Nathan
“Growing up on a small tobacco farm in Central Kentucky, it seems I have always had Kentucky soil under my fingernails and in my veins. I have grown up knowing that the seeds of spring pay the bills of fall and all the hardships and joys that come in between. We small farmers choose to farm for the friendships, community, and an honest way of life. I left the family farm for higher education and spent 11 years of my life working for the horticulture department at the University of Kentucky. In those 11 years, I helped many small family farms fight to offset the income loss of tobacco with vegetable production. Some failed and some succeeded, but in helping these families across Kentucky, I have come to realize that farmers have a greater picture of life than just the bottom line of a business plan. They want to feel value in what they are doing and worthy of their spot in the world. Whether organic, conventional, or somewhere in between, all small farmers are seeing the same struggles of living out a dream of a sustainable way of life. This is where my passion for farmers markets and other local food production has grown. It’s a great way to connect consumers to producers of all kinds and neighbors are helping neighbors in what is a true profit margin.” Nathan
It doesn’t make sense
The traditional path we followed tells us that none of this make sense. How can we simply grow food and make a living? How can we do this on just 2 acres of land with no employees, or substantial equipment? And that’s when we look around and see all the significantly good things around us that when lined up and compared to what the world has for sale doesn’t make sense, but those good things are beautiful to us. So we step out on faith and believe that our community will take care of us as we commit to offering what we have as a gift to it.
Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live Truth. Give Thanks. Love well. Become the gift. Phillipians 4:6-7