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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cultivating Abundance

I read an article a couple of days ago about a Vermont family who farms with Fjord horses. I couldn't help but think "Wow, what a great life that must be". It has been buzzing around my noggin ever since. As always, the question "what if?" kept rolling around my head as it so often does and it's lead me to a strange and seemingly random thought: What if I wanted to do organic farming with horses? On the surface, the idea seems a bit crazy. But the more I think about it, the less crazy it appears. I know that part of this train of thought (and the randomness of my new obsession HAS hit me a bit like a train) is that my daughter and I struggle to eat healthy. The healthier we eat, the more we struggle with bills and we STILL aren't eating the way we would like to. Poor diet has damaged us both, though not yet irreversibly: I have type 2 diabetes and my daughter is pretty severely iron deficient. NOT cool. The problem isn't knowledge or portion control. The problem isn't that we like to eat crap--we don't. The problem for us has been the cost of healthy food. I know that's pretty ridiculous in this country, but food insecurity is a very real problem for many families and getting worse all the time.

And that's not the only problem. I'm feeling more and more scared and paranoid about where our food is actually coming from. Monsanto continues to do what it does, despite the mounting evidence that GMOs can and do cause significant health problems. Unfortunately for the majority of folks in this country (myself included) the farm subsidies that this agricultural giant continues to enjoy mean that they are the only affordable option. Not cool.

I have had little gardens in the past (though I can't here in my fourth-floor apartment!) and have really enjoyed and appreciated being able to go pick myself a fresh salad whenever I felt like it. I have grown everything I like at one time or another (thanks to my grandparents who turned me on to gardening) and there's something very satisfying about the work. It's kind of funny, really. I'm germ-phobic and bugs freak me out, but I have no problem at all with getting my hands garden-dirty and picking bugs off plants. It's like I go into a zone. It's very similar to the kind of zone I went into when I was cleaning stalls: I (and my friend Autumn) called the flashes of brilliance that occurred during stall-cleaning "Muck-piphanies" and well, I kind of miss them. I tried to replicate the same sort of conditions with walking, but there are just way too many people around to really get 'in the zone' and I ended up doing this to myself (oddly enough, I have cleaned stalls with lots of people around too, and it wasn't at all bothersome. Horse people are different: We would either all be in a zone, or engaged in easy, pleasant conversation). Add to that the weird limbo-like disconnect that I've been struggling with; it makes the idea of getting up with outdoor, physical work to do every morning sound especially appealing.

When I moved to town, I thought I would appreciate how easy things were. I thought I would like to have the chance to sleep in, to not have the constant pull of things needing to be done. I thought that the time and space would help my writing, and that the proximity to people would provide me with a sense of security that I felt I lacked in the boonies. Financially, I NEEDED to do this and the financial pressure was significantly relieved for awhile. But this isn't who I am. All I've done since I've lived here is fantasized about having horses again, getting my hands dirty and seeing stars unencumbered by the lights from town. I miss hearing the friggin' crickets and frogs. I will admit that I did feel a bit more secure for awhile, but then my neighbors started selling drugs and shooting at each other and that tiny bit of security that I felt disappeared. My writing didn't flourish (though I did finish a book and start another): I struggle like crazy with focus--a problem I didn't have when I had fresh air and physical work to do. And do you know that I haven't really 'slept in' once? I guess I'm just not wired that way.

Initially, I tried to talk myself out of even thinking about this. It would require major life-changes and quite a learning curve. I know how to work with horses, though not for farming. I know how to grow vegetables, but not what is involved in growing certified organic vegetables on even a small commercial scale. Perhaps the biggest obstacle appears to be start-up costs. I did a quickie internet search with this in mind, and found an obscene number of grants and resources available for organic farm start-ups. It lead me to do a quick market analysis which indicated a HUGE demand that appears to be an upward-moving trend.  What if?

What if I were able to procure a grant and buy a small farm? What if I rented part of it to a farmer committed to humanely raising grass-fed beef? What if this farming-partner was willing to do the things I really hate about farm life (haying and mowing) and all I had to worry about was growing great vegetables? What if I decided to add raspberries and blueberries? Maybe some eggs? What if I could use my horses and land to sustain myself and feed others?

I am very well-aware of my tendency to chase rainbows. I also know that I continue to chase them because doing so has been reinforced by varying degrees of success. I have learned a lot this way, and am ready and willing to learn more. Right now, I'm going to sit with this for a bit and treat it like a research project. Maybe the research will turn into a business plan, and maybe it won't. In the meantime though, it is certainly an interesting idea:-)

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