Organic Farming 101: Farm Sitting for the Farmer-in-Training

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Rotating Angus cattle with an electric fence system is a skill you can learn as a farm sitter.

I’m not sure how it happened, or whether I can pinpoint an exact moment when it became clear to me that I wanted to labor in organic farming for the rest of my life. There was definitely a foreshadowing series of events: the initial ping on my first-ever sealed jar of pickled beets in my grandparents’ kitchen, walking through pasture illuminated by glittering fireflies with a belly full from a true farm dinner, the frothy milk mustache on my upper lip from the fresh goat’s milk I had yanked and squeezed out into the stainless steel milk pail, my first potato treasure hunt when my roommates and I dug our harvest with our fingers from the rich, loose soil in our garden. However it came to be, the truth of the matter is I have caught the farm-girl bug, and what started as a few sniffles has turned into a full-on cold sweat fever.

Ever since I started working on an organic vegetable farm four years ago, I have slowly been accumulating bits and pieces of sustainable agriculture education by throwing in a hand on my friends’ farms. I’ve milked goats, cows and sheep; made yogurt, butter and cheeses; fed chickens, pigs and cattle; planted, weeded and harvested an untold number of fruits and vegetables before cooking, canning, freezing or drying them. Despite living in the city, I have found ways to bring the country world into my home and lifestyle.

Sustainable Agriculture Training: Entering the World of Farm Sitting

My biggest hurdle before achieving the farming dream is definitely land acquisition. This summer, as a way to side-step that roadblock, earn some extra cash and spend time really living and working in the country (albeit on other people’s farms), I entered into the world of the farm sitter as my own version of farm school. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I imagined it would be like a vacation into the life I would someday have for myself, complete with the firefly pastures, good food and cuddly animals.

What I did not expect were all the extra little tricks that come with rural living: daily milking and feeding chores, emergency animal care and the occasional totally random mishap — a hay bale catching on fire after being struck by an errant bolt of lightning, for example (yes, this really happened). Needless to say, I definitely had the hands-on, down and dirty experiences of life on the farm — the beauties of life and growth balanced by the sadness of death and passing.

  • Published on Oct 12, 2010
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