Sunday, April 1, 2012

On being a Weekend Farmer

I remember in the 70’s there was a term used for those who hung out at country western bars on Friday and Saturday nights, decked out in gaudy, overly bejeweled western shirts and commercially pressed Levi boot-cut 501 jeans with extra starch, wearing newly shined Tony Lama boots and cowboy hats that were shaped to each person’s personal preference. During the work week they dressed in their normal, appropriate work attire counting down the hours until they could transform into a character that mimicked John Travolta in Urban Cowboy. Back then, their transformation was referred to as “Weekend Cowboys.”

The same can be said of those of us who have relocated to rural, semi-undeveloped areas to live a life with a little less chaos than the urban environments we were accustom to, even if it is just for a few hours each weekend. Some have kept their real jobs and commute to the city during the work week, or for a fortunate few, obtained decent paying jobs in our rural communities. We make the commute to our homes “in the country” after work or on the weekends to our hobby farms, growing oversized gardens and tending to a variety of farm animals like chickens, goats and perhaps a head of cattle or two. We are known as “Weekend Farmers.”
Yes, we trade our normal, office casual look for boots and jeans although much less ornate than the weekend cowboys of the 70’s., rarely pressed and often stained with various substances – all of which we wear as badges of honor from successfully repairing broken hydraulic hoses or helping with birthing events. We trade laptops and cell phones for tractors, front end loaders and all the attachments John Deere makes.

Our weekends are filled with the aroma of wet manure and hay, a fragrance as sweet to us as a bouquet of flowers is to others or freshly harvested specialty grasses awaiting a hay bailer. We mend fences, build and repair pens, doctor animals and nurse them back to health. We clean stalls and chicken coops hauling manure to compost piles, and prepare our harvest for future use in the pressure canner, making jams and jellies and preserving vegetables we harvested at the peak of ripeness. We study seed catalogs and watch futures on the stock market. We exchange our job specific trade journals for Hobby Farm magazine or Mother Earth News.


We drink coffee with the locals at the feed store as their hands load scratch grains or ranch cubes in our pick-up’s and shoot the breeze with retired farmers who tell stories on each other, mostly unbelievable and who give advice to the weekend farmers, often unsolicited but always welcomed.

We are among a growing group of fellow weekend farmers who have an increasing desire to do what we do in the evenings or on the weekends – full time. The dream of working for yourself and providing for your family in a manner that has been practiced for hundreds of years, to provide a self-sustaining, wholesome and healthy environment for yourself and your family with some leftover to pay the bills, to wake up and smell the freshly mowed hay pastures and harvest fresh eggs from the coop each morning is inviting.

We would like nothing less than to trade our jobs in Corporate America for the opportunity to operate a small farm in Rural America. And while we understand the work is exhausting and never-ending and that at times the workload is more than one man or woman can handle, or the stress of an unyielding crop can be overwhelming we still embrace the idea with enthusiasm as we would be working for ourselves and in as much control as the good Lord will give us instead of working for the stockholders whose demands are more stressful than a cow giving birth to a breached calf.

Yet in reality we know that in this economic environment, where hundreds of farmers throughout this great nations who have been in existence for over a hundred years passing down farm knowledge and assets from generation to generation are failing and that it would be an impossible dream to make the transition from urban career to full time farm life. Only a handful of people do this successfully and the odds are against us.

As the weekend comes to a close and we set our alarm clocks to slowly make the mental transition back to our Monday through Friday existence that proves a steady paycheck for our families and in this real world, allows us to maintain our weekend farmer persona. Each of us know it will be a long week ahead and there will be many times we will have to fight the urge to call in sick with the flu for one more day to work on our hobby farm.

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