Why Do I Wanna Farm, Anyway? Part 1
In 2012, something clicked for me. I wanted out of the developing New Hampshire seacoast and to get into the country. I was a 26-year-old gas station attendant who spent all my downtime reading American history books and John Irving novels and taking my own stab at being a writer in a diary. The people-watching was great. I played in bands, liked local girls, drank lots of beer in my hip little studio downtown. But one day I realized I wanted to eat organic foods, avoid processed crap, and drink kombucha. I made the mistake of starting with the nasty green spirulina flavor, but once I found ginger kombucha, it became my favorite drink.
My family left Massachusetts when I was a kid and picked a nice little hilltop in a nice little neighborhood with a nice little school within walking distance of our nice little Victorian home. Weekends were spent hiking in the White Mountains or sitting in a sun-baked canoe pretending I liked fishing while my dad did all the work. My mom had perennial gardens with rock walls winding around the porch, flowering crab apple trees, an arbor with vines crawling up. It was a beautiful little property.
My parents sold a plot of land up in the Lakes Region to settle on the seacoast, a compromise for family and work. My dad always wanted to get up into the mountains, but such is life. Pretty sure I inherited that dream -- and in 2012, I decided it had to be reality.
I found an in-law apartment in Alton, just shy of Lake Winnipesaukee, and spent the better part of that one-year lease trying to find a decent job in the area with no success. As for gardening, all I managed was a poor attempt at potatoes in an old plastic bin. The handful of baby potatoes I ate that summer, though? Immensely proud of them.
That year in the country, I discovered the joy of driving down winding roads with farm stands around every corner: delicious raw milk, pastured meat, locally crafted products. Once I coupled my interest in food and nutrition with the realization I could do it myself, all the lightbulbs went off. The seed was planted, the idea that I could do this someday.
However, like my measly baby potatoes experiment, I learned everything in the country takes extra work to accomplish. Lots of work, but always worth it. Trees fall in driveways, the power might go out for days, it's a little colder and a little darker and a little snowier while your friends in the south sip margaritas on the patio. But the idea of living in a city where cars stalled in front of my house and streetlights shined through the windows and food wrappers blew by the door become unbearable to me. And stepping out to the back porch to nothing but stars and deer was heavenly. Even if it was colder and I had to wear a headlamp.
When the lease was up, money brought me back to the seacoast and I'm okay with that. Life has its ways. One day I bumped into my wife-to-be, and immediately we began plotting a return to the mountains and lakes. In the meantime, I grew some amazing tomatoes and lettuce in a little raised bed under an oak tree. I knew I needed more garden space. I had to go big. I read books about market gardening and pastured livestock and I felt like a shaken up soda bottle, all fizzed up. My winding roads filled with farm stands had some structure now. Behind the barn was a market garden, some wire fence, a mobile chicken coop, a farmer getting it done.
We picked two possible towns to live in -- Tamworth or Sandwich -- and wouldn't take no for an answer. Once we committed to the old, vacant farmhouse on the road out of Sandwich, our vision got real.
It was a beater, alright. Even the realtor trying to sell it to us made fun of it. The previous owners bailed and let it fall into disrepair. The first time we drove by, it was a soft "no." The front yard marred by a rusty old propane tank, dying apple trees, a lonely tipped-over children's slide, fencing and woodbine and forsythia gone absolutely rampant. Indeed, it was something wild reclaiming the land from a last-ditch effort by some forsaken gardener. But when we walked up the logging road and peeked into the goldenrod-stuffed pastures, looking back to the house and Mt. Larcom beyond, I knew I was up for this challenge.
And for two years now I've been un-farming Something Wild Farm. Cutting back the docks and thistles, digging rocks and roots out of the pasture, pulling ticks off of me and the dogs, catching mice, wishing I had goats and chickens and a rather large Kubota tractor. But in the meantime, I've been building Something Wild Farm right into the thick of the mess. I tapped three maple trees, then twenty, now fifty. My two row garden turned into eight. I found the elderberry patch. I bought the big chainsaw. Things are getting fun, finally. Our pantry is full, our freezers are fuller. Plans are being made.
But on those hard days, dragging stumps that resemble giant squids between fragile elderberry bushes and goldenrod, when I want to go inside and do anything else, I remember that this is exactly why I want to be a farmer. I know the hardest work brings the greatest reward. Next year my elderberry crop will double because I've made it twice as accessible. That means more medicinal elderberry syrup. It means I get to stock the farm stand that some unknowing explorer will wind around Rte. 113 to discover.
Now I can't imagine not building a farm. In my darkest moments when I wish I found a home with less than 15 acres -- y'know, maybe like 3/4 acre with a fence and a back porch -- and I could just go trail-running every day with the dogs and catch up on that backlog of non-farming books I have...... in these moments I just work harder. My vision is too strong.
Is that a good reason to want to be a farmer? It's one of them, anyway.