If you had grabbed me by the shoulder twelve years ago and told me that after my husband and I got married and had children, that we would sell our home in a residential area and move to a fixer-upper home with a large amount of farmland and raise animals and tend to a garden, we both would have had a good chuckle. But that is exactly what happened, three years ago this June. We sold our home, packed all of our belongings, and stayed in our hometown, but in the middle of nowhere.
Why in the world would a family choose to spend their summers on the land? Here are five reasons why:
1. We believe in hard work.
There are so many things that come so easily to this generation, that we wanted to be able to show our kids that vegetables do not grow in a can, and meat isn’t found in a kids’ meal. There are farmers out there, raising the produce that we buy everyday, and it is a lifestyle that requires a lot of manual labor. Getting out in the sun, working with our hands, putting a little blood, sweat, and tears into the farm work allows us to appreciate so much more the final product.
2. You can see the fruits of your labor.
With all of that hard work put into farming and gardening, you are able to actually see the fruits of your labor. You can experience what happens when a tiny seed is placed in the dirt, and watered and tended. The kids can collect the eggs from the coop after feeding and loving on the chickens. They are able to see that hard work does not return void, which is such a rewarding feeling.
3. We are learning a new trade together, as a family.
My husband and I have zero experience in the world of gardening, farming, or home renovation. But we decided it was a venture that we wanted to pursue for our family, so we are learning together along with our children. This has been beautiful in a few ways: we can celebrate our victories together, and we can also learn from our mistakes. Our garden last year completely flopped, and after many tears (mostly from myself) we were able to regroup and develop a better plan for this year’s garden.
4. The children learn about life and death.
We have had many, many animals die over the three years we have lived here. From rabbits, pigs, goats, and chickens, the kids have come to the understanding that life has a beginning and an end. It is much easier to explain the “circle of life” when they have named an animal and then experienced the loss.
5. We are able to give our kids the outdoor childhood we had.
When we lived in a residential area, surrounded by homes on all sides and a relatively small back yard, there was very little space to roam freely outdoors. Our decision to move to a large portion of land gives our children the freedom to play in the woods, splash in the creek, and throw rocks down by the pond. While we still frequent parks and play areas, there is just nothing like an endless backyard.
What if I live in an urban or residential area and want the experience of farming?
Find out the restrictions in your neighborhood! We were able to have rabbits and chickens in our former neighborhood, so we had several rabbits before we moved and would be considered our “first farm animals.” Find out what you are allowed to have, and start small.
I want a garden, but have a small backyard /live in an apartment. How can I grow fresh vegetables?
If you have a small backyard, try a raised garden bed and plant a few items to see how they fare. You can place potted tomato plants on your back porch or terrace, and grow herbs indoors. Or, find a friend with land and do a shared garden, where both families have a joint responsibility of weeding and maintaining the garden (and eating the fruits of your labor!)
I love the idea of farming and gardening, but do not feel it is something we can do in this season of life for our family. How can I enjoy the benefits of fresh produce?
Find and support a local farmers’ market in your hometown. Our family is heavily involved in our market (more about the details of that market here) and we sell everything from farm fresh eggs, produce, all natural personal care products (sugar scrubs, plantain salves) and our eight year old daughter even has her own lemonade stand. Supporting local farmers is key to continuing to grow and sell produce in your area. You can speak to the sellers one and one, and find out how the product is grown, what (if any) pesticides or weed-killers they use, and feel confident that you know much more about what you are buying than you ever would at the grocery store.