Part two of a three part series
Last week, I wrote a little about how we made the decision to leave behind all that was familiar and leap into the farm life. That post was about the one, defining moment, for me, that illuminated what was truly important (the kids) and what I wanted for them (a future on the farm). However, to think that our 2,000 mile move was wholly inspired by one small moment is mildly preposterous; there were many, many discussions and decisions that led us to living on a farm in Braham, Minnesota.
The largest motivator behind our move was the desire to know and have more agency over what was, in fact, in the food that we were eating. As a soon-to-be-new mother, I had agonized for days, WEEKS, about which (nearly identical) crib mattress we should buy for the baby. Now, three times a day, (11 if you count snacks), I was feeding my children food about which I knew little more than which store it came from and whether or not it had been on sale. We began to research local, non-industrial food options in our area, and were dismayed to learn that there were very few feasible options for us. In the Central Valley of California – the salad bowl of the nation – we found ourselves in a grass-fed food desert. We had friends from which we could buy pork in bulk, and there was a farm a few hours away that sold pastured broiler chickens, once a year, in limited quantities. And no grass-fed beef to be found. Had we been able to buy (and subsequently irrigate) enough acreage in Yolo County, we would have happily filled this food void, but with a nearby 40-acre parcel (no house, no barns, and no water) going for $1.1 million, we had to take our pasture aspirations elsewhere.
Beyond our interest in clean, local food, we wanted to make sure we were living a lifestyle that would help our daughters grow up to be as well-rounded as possible. Chris had collected his farm hopes and dreams (along with a few ranch skills) by both shadowing his grandfather and being an FFA member; I wanted my girls to benefit from this legacy. Along with learning to read, tie shoes, drive a stick shift, and cook a chicken, I wanted my ladies to know how to build a fire, fix fence, rotate cattle, and butcher a chicken. Knowing and being involved with where their food comes from will undoubtedly serve the kids in the future. As farmers, we are responsible for caring for and raising each animal, as well as ending its life to better our own. With that role comes great responsibility, one that we do not take lightly. Instilling this respect for the animals in our children won’t come through lectures or documentary watching, they will live these lessons through daily feeding, watering, and moving chores.
These constant chores will be more arduous than anything we would’ve experienced as a city family, and that was something taken into account during our early discussions. The benefit, however, is another thing we hope to teach our children: work is not a dirty word. There is honor and pleasure to be found in suiting up and doing the work. Too often, kids hear that college and desk jobs are the only tickets to a “successful” life. Make no mistake, as a University of California graduate (Go Ags!) and a public school teacher, school is a very important part of our life. We expect the kids to do their best, and support them in whatever paths they take in the future. Whether their paths lead to scrubs or coveralls, there is one universal skill that will help them be successful – a work ethic. Chore charts were only getting us so far in our city life; being responsible for the care and well-being of animals on a daily basis – no matter the windchill – will hopefully instill in the girls the understanding that work is very much a worthy and necessary part of life.
This laundry list of hopes and dreams ultimately led us to this farm and this adventure. We are settling into our new community, learning to live with (and mostly enjoy) Minnesota’s winters, and planning for 2018. As we bring animals out on pasture, we hope to bring lessons to our girls and visitors to the farm. Come on out and move cows with us sometime – we supply the cattle, you supply the coveralls.