Farming Is Hard Work

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman
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Farming for a living is hard work. Even with a part-time off-farm job, we work hard at the farming part for not a lot of money. Farming feels great when things are going smoothly. But when a crop busts or the workload weighs a ton, it’s easy to feel despaired. Quickly, you come to realize that small farming success needs to be judged by more than money in the bank (although that is certainly part of it). Preserves in the pantry, a stocked freezer, sustainable living, quality of life, working at home with family, balance of life are all perks of the job that need to be considered. Phil says it takes a few good rationalizations to get him through some days. 

I talk to friends who work in offices all day with a long commute, and realize it takes them a few good rationalizations to get through some days too. So, when harvesting keeps us so busy that we can’t “get anything done”, or when the tomato plants have blight but the weeds are growing strong, or when the to-do list is a mile long, or all three, I could definitely use a good dose of rationale. 

Here are our Top 10+ rationalizations to get through a growing season:

• Everyone has a hard day at work sometimes
• We can work in boots and dirty t-shirts
• We are our own boss, we call the shots
• We eat like kings
• We know our farmers. We are our farmers.
• At least we don’t need to enroll the kids for summer camp. We are summer camp.
• “What a great environment for the kids to grow up in”
• The walk out to the garden is a short commute
• We can have goats instead of gerbils
• We don’t need a gym membership
• We don’t need a therapist. Plant therapy is zen.
• Farming is a way of life, not a career.
• How else would we grow 250 heirloom tomato plants, so that I could select the very best tomato for my sandwich?

Please share with me your favorite farming rationalization that gets you through the rough spots.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and House In the Woods blog, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to