So said the real estate agent in my adopted hometown when I told him I was looking for at least 10 acres.
He went on to tell me I only needed five. I never spoke to him again. I knew what I wanted.
At the time, I was still so new to the town that I was only fact finding, trying to get a feel for the area, the land and the prices. I wasn’t yet ready to buy but his patronizing attitude ensured I would not work with him when I was!
I wanted at least 10 acres because I wanted enough land for some serious food production. I ended up with 21+ acres and a massive home renovation project. And–I hope–some of the control I seek…control over the food my family eats and how it’s raised.
Now that I’ve bought a place and started down the path, I realize I could fall flat on my face. I do! But my dream for our property–once we’ve made the house livable–is a small farm. A very small farm, but a farm of some kind nonetheless. One that will enable us to grow our own fruits and vegetables, raise chickens for eggs and meat, and try our hand at a pig. I’d also like a dairy cow. Maybe. After I learn what’s required for a nervous novice to bewitch a bovine into providing a regular supply of milk.
Plenty could go wrong. The clay soil could prove impossible to amend. The costs of maintaining livestock might outweigh the benefits of raising the animals ourselves. Or maybe we simply won’t have enough time for food production on top of day jobs and parenting and horses and working on the house.
Even the initial work we’ll have to do to get started could prove too much given our busy schedules and limited budget. There’s fencing to tear down, fix and/or replace. The barn is getting retrofitted for the horses for now, so we have no room for other livestock yet. We’ll need the funds for a real horse barn before that happens. The garden area needs plowing under, the sod dug in and truckloads of compost worked in, I suspect.
And, living in the Pacific Northwet, the water must be dealt with. Here’s just a hint of what lies ahead for us there:
It’s a little overwhelming. OK, it’s a lot overwhelming! Yet I’m willing to risk the failure because I can’t not do something to take a stand against our broken food system. I’m a mom, a Catholic and a compassionate person. I care deeply about how we’re raising our kids, treating our farm workers and feeding ourselves. I don’t want to feed my family animals raised inhumanely by factory farms, or produce raised by poorly paid immigrant workers. Nor do I want to support the industrial ag system by buying foods raised by subsized corn crops. And I really don’t want anything to do with GMOs!
Although every mom should share these concerns, I know not everyone wants to move to the country and tackle a huge project like mine in order to feel better about the food they’re eating. But anyone can take back some control just the same, and say “no” to the industrial ag system (which means saying “yes” to a sustainable local food system!). It can be as simple as learning about where our food currently comes from, whether you read up on the so-called Farm Bill or the dangers of GMOs. Read a book like “Kitchen Literacy” to understand how disconnected we are from our food, or get your eyes opened by “In Defense of Food.”
Or skip that step altogether and simply trust that eating local food is better. Then head straight to your local food source, like your farmers markets, local produce stands or your area’s small farm CSA programs. When you shop local, you might be amazed at just show much of your family’s diet can be locally grown, from beef to beets to pork to cheese to more, much more. And a lot of what you can’t find you might realize you can do without.
Even if only 10% of your family’s food was locally grown, you’d make a difference, for your family, your farmers and your future.
Seeking out local food sources is what we’re going to continue to do until we get the farmhouse livable and start on the actual “farm” part and start growing our own. Stay tuned to see how we do!