Freedom to Do Things Your Own Way

As communication and transportation allow people to work from home, or live a greater distance from their workplace, many are choosing to move out into the country and start “hobby farms”. One problem with this trend is that one of the most beautiful and satisfying elements of farm life is lost as people accustomed to buying everything move to the country.

In the city, fashions, usually created by marketing agencies for the profit of corporations, determine how things are to be done.  Most people are working to try and make their lives– house, car, body, clothes, lawn, garden, kids, pets, etc.–match the images seen in the advertisments.  These images are rarely ever examined or questioned, but assumed as “normal”.  Work is something modern people do not to obtain their food and clothing and share with others, but for a salary figure, vacation photos, benefits, retirement, etc.–or at least that’s what they pretend they’re working for. When work is done, whether washing the dishes or mowing the lawn, there is a fashionable way to do it.  If you subscribe to the magazines, watch the shows, shop at the right stores, you can learn how things are to be done.

On working farms, families live with a great deal of privacy and usually get together at specific places for specific activities–at church on Sunday, at the state fair, at the livestock auction, at the farmers’ market, and so on.  Those are the times when they need to think about their clothes and hair and respect modern norms.  Most of the time, they are working on their own farms, minding their own business, with their own family members, in their own way, for their own profit.  That freedom to manage every day with one’s own unique collection of experiences, resources, knowledge, interests, beliefs, preferences, etc., is one of the most beautiful and satisfying things about farm life.  It allows family culture to develop and real personality.

The best way to do things is rarely ever going to be the way being promoted by Home Depot or Tractor Supply.  They are selling products that they can turn profits on, not that actually offer the best solution for customers.   Some people have lots of cash, but no time.  Some people have lots of time, but no cash.  Some people are young and strong.   Some people are older and weak.  Some people have large families and lots of hands.  Some people have to work alone.  There’s no store that’s going to provide what’s good for everyone and I’d argue that they often provide what’s actually good for noone.

If the Lord gives you the opportunity to live in the country, enjoy the freedom to do things on your farm the way you want to do them.  It may take a little more labor, or require some improvements every now and then, but that doesn’t matter.  You’ll often face some smart remarks from neighbors who think their way is the only way, but you’ll notice that they are rarely ever doing the things you’d like to do and their opinions don’t matter.  They may have worked on farms when they were younger and know the way farmers did it then, but that’s irrelevant–and most of those farmers are out of business today.

On your farm, it’s not only OK to do things your own way–it will ultimately be the best way.  You’re the one that has to do the work and you should enjoy doing it.  I like to visit my animals a few times a day, clean their water tanks, freshen their feed, watch them do what they do, even talk to them a little.  I’m not ignorant of the modern, automated farm equipment.  I like doing it my way.  I like to plant my gardens in long rows and weed them the old fashioned way–with a cultivator and hoe.  I’m, not ignorant of herbicides and other methods of planting.  I like doing it my own way.  I like collecting manure from the barn and spreading it in the gardens.  I’m not ignorant of chemical fertilizers (I worked in a chemistry lab).  I like doing it my way.  I like leaving lots of tasks to be handled manually so the kids have things to help with.  I’m not ignorant of the products available to eliminate these tasks.  I like doing it my way.  

That’s the best thing about farm life.  I really enjoy seeing how different people solve different problems in their own, creative and sustainable ways.  Many of the great inventions in history came not from university laboratories but from barns and kitchens where men and women had to find ways to get things done.  Unfortunately, this is being done less and less these days, especially as products are marketed to make us afraid or embarassed to do so.

Bill Michael
Michael Family Farm


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