Subsistence Farming, Part 1

When people are frustrated, it is easy for them to fly, wildly, to extremes and imagine them to be real solutions.  We see this nowhere better than in political mess before us in the presidential election this year.  People who are struggling financially in the suburban life, or Christians who are uncomfortable working with unbelievers because of the difficulty of maintaining a good example with peer pressure from their co-workers, will begin to imagine that the answers to their problems are to be found in “living off the land”, “buying a farm”, “moving to the country”, etc..  The problem is that they don’t understand that succeeding in farming is much more difficult than doing so in the city or suburb–which is why the farmers in the 1920s-1950s moved to the cities and suburbs for an easier life.  This is especially the case for people who think they’re going to move to the farm and live by selling produce.  It just doesn’t work like that and their idea that that’s the easy way only proves their ignorance of the work done by farmers and lack of respect for the complexity of the produce market.  It’s no wonder these people struggle in the city and suburbs.

There are, however, a small number of people who, for the right reasons and with realistic expectations, are interested in what is properly called “subsistence farming”.    In subsistence farming, it is assumed that a man has a source of income off the farm and that he and his family work the farm as a part-time operation for their family’s own supply of food.  It should be obvious that the amount of income available determines how much land can be owned, what type of equipment can be purchased and, therefore, what type of produce can be sought.  The idea that buying a milk cow can save a family that can’t afford to buy milk is nuts.  A milk cow will require 5 acres of land for its necessary pasture, hay and grain, which will require a tractor for a man to work and regular, twice-daily care of the cow.  If the land and equipment is not available for growing feed, then all of the cow’s feed will need to be purchased, which is far more expensive than picking up milk and butter at the store each week.  The goal of this lifestyle is to make the best possible use of family income and enjoy the many benefits of farm life as a hard-working, well-organized family.

I will be sharing, through a number of posts, an entire guide to subsistence farming, which my family practices.  We receive income from work in education and farm to reduce, as far as possible, our family’s need for cash, creating a balance where I would argue the happiest life is found.

Please feel free to comment on the posts and ask any questions you have.  I look forward to working through these matters with you.

God bless,
William Michael


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