Why We Started Farming

Moms and dads in our society both work outside the home and when the children are old enough they are busy outside the home with their activities. This can cause disconnected family relationships and failure to pass along the values of the parents. I was working 50-60 hour weeks when my children were young and was on a track to follow this pattern. So what to do?

Parents in earlier generations largely had home based businesses, like farming, grazing or carpentry. They worked together as a family to make their living and the skills and values of the previous generation were transmitted through working together. This is a good model for raising children.

I was looking for an activity to be able to work with our children to build skills and teach values. Initially gardening and then very small scale (micro) farming was an excellent way to do that. Both Lisa and I grew up on farms.

We started with a garden of 1/4 acre (10,000 square feet) in the back of our 2 acre lot in our housing development. After five years of gardening we started looking for a small farm within several miles of Rochester. It took three years of looking but we then finally found 30 acres north of Rochester. This farm had 8 acres of tillable land, which we have in an organic crop rotation, only planting 5 acres each year. (This is plenty to keep up with, since I also have a full time job off the farm.)

We started growing for market when our oldest daughter was 3 years old, so all of our children have grown up with the farm. Our children are now teenagers and with the help of some high school age workers they do most of the day to day planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing. Dad does primary tillage and mom is the accountant.

One of the funnest part of the week is The Debrief after the Saturday Farmers Market, where we all compare notes and tell funny stories from the days market and the week in review.

So how do you get teenagers to work hard, be self motivated and lead teams of their peers to do the same? You start when they are very young, if possible. Our teens have a very high level of expertise and technique (and are very proud of their work) so their peers have to follow their lead closely to be successful. When they get old enough to care about money you pay them very well.

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