What nobody told me about small farming: I can\'t make a living
The farmers in the story sound like me.
In their mid-20s
In his 30 s, dedicated to organic practice, holds a university degree and graduates from middle schoolclass non-
Some people raise animals or take care of orchards.
Others, like me, grow vegetables.
The Farmer\'s Day sounds long and full, bathed in the sun and dirt.
The story is heartening and is a great antidote to the constant reporting of pink mucus and herbicide errors by industrial companies --Super resistantweeds.
The question that the reporter did not ask young farmers is: if the reporter asks me these questions, can you make a living? Can you afford the rent? Health care? I will say no.
* My farm is located in the foothills of northern California, 40 miles east of Sacramento and covers an area of 10 acres, and my partner Ryan and I lease from the Land Trust.
In the hot summer, my field covered the bronze scenery like a green quilt on the beach.
Ten acres of certified organic vegetables are outlined along a small valley.
The tomatoes are deep red.
Flowers in full bloom: zin grass, lavender, Daisy.
Watermelon is fat and littering on the ground like a beach ball.
A businessman had advised me not to admit that my business was difficult.
Nobody wants to get on the wreck. I know what he means.
I agreed at the time.
I believe that if an enterprise fails, it is because the entrepreneur is not skilled enough, not smart enough, not diligent enough.
If my farm is not profitable enough, it is my own fault.
Whenever a customer asks when things are going, it\'s great, I answer.
I thought about the ship that was sinking, but never said, well, we break even, but we work 6 days a week and 12 hours a day. Only food and family expenses we need to pay: $100 per week.
Since Ryan and I started our farm, I haven\'t told anyone in the last three years how I ran out of most of my savings.
I don\'t admit that the only factor in keeping the farm running is the income that Ryan and I have earned in other ways --
Ryan works as a carpenter. I work as a baker.
I didn\'t say that although we improved the land
We spread hundreds of yards of compost, and we spend thousands of dollars a year covering crop seeds to increase soil fertility, and every weed is pulled out --
We didn\'t get an equity because we didn\'t own the land.
I didn\'t say I felt like I was trying to fill the tub when the drain was open.
* A farmer\'s companion came to visit one afternoon.
He asked us how we were doing. I was telling the truth this time.
The farmer told me that he has been engaged in agriculture for nearly ten years, and his profit was the largest last year: $4,000.
I have spoken out a bunch of concerns and told the farmers how I have done these figures in various ways, and the future looks like the profit is not high.
The farmer just nodded as if I was telling him what I had for breakfast that morning and didn\'t reveal the shameful secret of my business failure.
The more we talk, the more I start to doubt the other farmers I know.
I want to know how many small farmers actually make a living.
I have to define what \"life\" is before I start trying to answer this question \".
\"There are three things I decided to make a living: 1)
Farmers must pay themselves a weekly salary equivalent to a person who works full time.
The minimum wage has time and in my town the minimum wage is $360 per week. 2)
Farmers must comply with the labor law, which means that there are no unpaid workers or interns doing basic farm tasks. 3)
Farmers must earn income from agriculture, which means that non-profit farms that survive on grants and donations are not counted;
Farms that rely on external sources of income are no exception.
I talked to all the farmers I know and thought about the farms I or my partner used to work on, the farms I went to, the farms of my friends.
Most of the farmers I \'ve talked to work outside of work to keep their farms above water, while others run away with their $4 per hour income, most of them rely on Labor volunteers or WWOOFers.
I did not meet a farmer who met my requirements.
Then I looked into the statistics of the country.
According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture 2012 data, Intermediate
Farms of scale like me, with a total income of more than $10,000, but less than $250,000, only 10% of family income from farms and 90% from off-sitefarm source.
Smaller farms actually lose agricultural income, and 109% of their household income comes from rural areas. farm sources.
There are only the largest farms, accounting for 10% of the country\'s agricultural households, most of which are heavily subsidized by the government, and most of their income comes from agricultural sources.
As a result, 90% of farmers in this country rely on external work, spouse\'s external work or some form of independent wealth to obtain their primary income.
* One day late in the second season when I owned the farm, when I stood behind the counter Spraying muddy carrots, a customer walked in.
The man asked how things went.
I mean, economically.
He had a lettuce on his arm and a bundle of pink radish hanging in his hand.
I looked at the man and did not answer \"great\" as usual, but said, we have passed.
He nodded. well, you may not make much money, but you are rich in other ways.
I opened my mouth to answer, but the man had turned away and stared at the dream --
Looking at my field, each row is buttered later onafternoon sun.
I looked back at the pile of carrots and didn\'t know what else I would say.
I want to ask this man, what does he mean?
But I know what he means.
I \'ve heard this all the time: you have to love what you do, or don\'t make much profit in farming, but what a wonderful lifestyle it is, or, um, you don\'t repeat these maxims with enthusiasm to the customers for money, trying to give me some comfort or encouragement.
But looking at this person staring at my field, I can\'t help but wonder if the person being comforted is a customer.
Of course, many farmers like what they do, because I often find fun in my daily work, but in the end agriculture is a job, a profession, a means of making a living, the basic function of the job must be met: to provide income.
Does the concept that agriculture is a lovely job explain the fact that the industry as a whole depends on low-income labor, and does that make me have to wonder if the forecast for 2014 is $1,682? If the concept is just to alleviate the collective discomfort caused by a disturbing fact, the fact that one should provoke us should make our society ashamed: famous American farmers can\'t even make a living.
* A few weeks later, I gave a speech at a local high school.
The teacher asked me to talk to her food system class about doing organic farmers.
After I finished speaking, the teacher turned to her class.
So, she asked, after graduating from high school, how many of you think you might be thinking about farming, and none of the students raised their hands.
The teacher observed for a moment in the air above the student\'s head, as if scanning the ocean for whales, as if a hand might pop up. None did.
Then she looked at me and showed sympathy. smile, half-
Grimace, as if I had just lost an election. I shrugged.
There was no need for her to apologize to me, nor did I think the students would want to be farmers.
I said, I don\'t think I made it look too attractive. And I didn’t —
I did not romanticize the early morning in the wild, nor did I praise the health benefits of physical labor.
I\'m telling the truth: I grew 10 acres of organic vegetables and during the peak of the season I worked 60 hours a week and my total revenue last year was $2,451.
Most children may earn more through summer work.
I told them that most of the jobs in organic farming are either \"internships\" where workers get food, or housing, not wages. Or as with the work of traditional farms, the wages are low and the exploitation is strong, where the workers are employed seasonally, the minimum wage or lower, without any benefits.
Driving home from high school, I was wondering if I should have a more positive understanding of agriculture.
As the average age of American farmers is close to 65, I know the country needs young farmers very much.
If I mention that night the great egret fell in a field only a yard away from me, and when I squatted between rows of collages, the bird\'s body was greener than mine, how does its neck move like a snake and slide up so it can look down at me.
When the egrets spread two white wings up into the sky, there was a wind on my cheek.
Or I can describe the joy of stopping in the field to cut the watermelon when harvesting it in the summer morning, despite the hot weather, how the fruit pink flesh keeps it cool in the thick crust, how do I dig out the melon from my pocket with a spoon and eat the whole half.
Of course, the way farmers live is good, but that doesn\'t seem to be the point.
Of course, there are a lot of occupations that offer moments of joy and satisfaction, and of course, doctors, wildlife biologists, chefs or mechanics sometimes love her job.
But no one expects these people to pay for this satisfaction.
When a student asked if my farm was sustainable, I told her that I was certified organic and that I managed my soil fertility through crop rotation and compost applications, I don\'t use synthesis to save water.
But no, I said, I don\'t think my farm is sustainable.
Like other farms I know, my farm relies on unpaid labor and selfexploitation.
My farm is not sustainable because I know that my partner and the years I can continue to work without viable income are running out.
* One night while running errands in town, I recognized a customer coming towards me on the sidewalk.
Hey the woman said, I drove past your farm today and it looked beautiful and all the flowers were open. Thanks, I said.
The lady continued: \"I love having an organic farm in our community and I just think the whole food campaign is great.
I imagine this woman walking into my farm groping for a tomato in her palm and admiring the newcar-
Every purple eggplant shines brightly.
Maybe she chose two pumpkins and a thumb. size jalapenos.
Before returning to the car, she looked at the fields outside, at the neat salad mix and the little kale;
Then the woman drove away with a smile and watched my field rise and fall in her rearview mirror.
My farm turned into a billboard that, like all the billboards, was deceptive.
It depicts abundance and prosperity.
Two smiling young farmers work in rows of neat green plants in the crisp morning sun.
All the products were filled with trash cans, fresh and no synthetic chemicals.
Even though all the talk about small farms is gone, even though big companies control our food, collect everything and douse it in the review, driving past my farm I think there is a small farm there where I can go and get a bag of organic kale and see a blue bird resting on the fig branches, notice a weed growing in lettuce.
At the same time, millions of dollars of federal subsidies were distributed to a single
Farms growing high-yield crops
Input GM corn and soybeans.
At the same time, EPA continues to approve the use of pesticides related to birth defects, infertility and cancer, such as Atrazine Dejin.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto, allowing Monsanto to sue farmers whose farmland was inadvertently contaminated with genetically modified seeds.
In the meantime, Ryan and I search for a new opportunity on the Internet that can provide us with enough income to buy health insurance or go to the dentist and make us fastto-be-
Children born on a trip to visit grandparents save a little money every year so that one day we can buy a piece of land ourselves and maybe we can go back to farming.
Because the truth is that no matter how many young people choose to farm, no matter how many bundles of kale are made into smoothies, or canvas shopping bags are filled with colorful carrots and lettuce, no matter how many trendy new restaurants claim to be farms --to-
Fork, none of these things involve policies that determine how our country\'s food system works, which create a society where small farmers can\'t even make a living.
I smiled at the woman on the street.
Thank you. I said, we are all going in the opposite direction.
Then the woman looked back and I hope the farm will stay here forever, she added.
I hope you will never find a real job. I let it go. quick, too-loud laugh.
I said, don\'t worry, don\'t turn around and face the woman, hope she won\'t notice the uncertainty in my voice, I won\'t.
* 25 miles down the road from my farm, and the land went up to a level enough for me to overlook the whole operation --
Fields, greenhouses, barns.
Sometimes, when I was driving by, I drove the car into a turnout, walked outside the car and leaned against my hood.
I looked down at my farm and at rows of tomatoes and peppers.
I noticed that the water Thistle grew very high around the fence line, and the water flying grass rolled up the steel lines of the idle tractor tools.
I was wondering how long it would take for the landscape to erase my farm if I quit farming tomorrow and if I just walked away.
If no one is dragging a twisted hoe on a row of onions, no one has trimmed the Thistle, and if no one has harvested wheat, melon or pumpkin, there is no one in autumn
The Thistle blooms, and every time it blooms, it throws more than a dozen yellow seeds into the soil like a needle pad.
Ground squirrels wait for the melon to mature, wait for the pumpkin to rush orange, and then cut them into pieces to take away.
Neat edges of each half
The acres of land will be worn out and weeds will spread until the 10 acres of land reappears, just a piece of land that is plowed.
Or maybe another young farmer will take over my lease and buy greenhouse and tractor equipment, irrigation lines and piles of harvest boxes.
Maybe the farmer will do better and last longer.
Or maybe she will quit her job in a few years.