When Stefano and I started farming we used to take long walks around the land and talk of our vision, how we wanted our farm to be. We had to compromise on the role of pigs, the amount of crops, the focus on the farm, but one thing we always agreed was that it takes a community to farm. We had no idea on how to form or find that community so instead of having a recruiting plan, we left our doors open to anyone that wanted to share a little bit of their journey with us.
We met people from all walks of life.
Some never farmed before and wanted to see if that was the right thing for them. Others had a clear goal of a homestead or wanted to live the romantic slow paced life in the country (ah ah ah! It did not take us long to burst that bubble). Yet, others wanted to find their limits and figure out what they wanted from life. Our 5 bedroom farm house hosted person after person and all sorts of hands tilled the soil, pulled the plastic from the pastures, petted the pigs and shoveled a few scoops of manure. Eventually everyone moved on.
Stefano and I still wondering about our idea of a farming community and still very much wanting this dream to be shared by more than just the two of us.
Then here arrives katie. About 2 years ago her mother, Katie and her aunt decided to stop by the farm to drop off acorns for our pigs. As I am giving a farm tour to our 3 guests with acorns, a group of pigs decides to explore the neighbour's hay field. I start running after the pigs in the fields and katies, very naturally, follows me and helps me bring them back. A few months later Katie arrived at the farm with a box of religion and philosophy books (she is completing a BA at the University of Vermont), settled in the room with the largest king bed in the farm house, and still maintains ownership of that room. Katie also earned the farm "poop oscar" as best poop shoveler at the farm - she is very proud of that accomplishment.
After 5 months from katie's arrival, Bobby sends me an email - he is an old student of mine that graduated 4 years prior. He had a good earning job as manager for a hotel chain and wanted/needed to change scene. He wanted to farm. His goal was to learn everything he could so he could buy a piece of land in Montana and farm on his own. After 5 months of living and farming with us he came in the kitchen all upset "You ruined it! You ruined the dream... I cannot buy my farm and farm alone ... farming is a community thing." And so it is... at least, our type of farming is a community thing. Don't take me wrong, there are a lot of solitary activities at the farm. Most things we do we do it independently from each other. We are always moving electric fences, cleaning the barn, watering the animals, feeding the animals. We spend so much time alone that we have started entertaining long philosophical conversations with the pigs (pigs are better listeners than sheep - we all agree). But we do not feel alone - we know someone is working in conjunction with us towards the same goal. It is like being part of an organism where each limb has its own job and independence but the final outcome is this intricate combination of detailed work. And if something cool is going on, it takes only a few minutes to reach someone and make them follow you to the place where you spotted a bobcat, or where you found a snake swallowing a frog, or to laugh at the pig that got himself stuck under a table. All the burden are lighter also when they are shared by a group of people and our own unique talents are complementary. For us, farming is definitely a community thing.