Seven Years Later

Hey.

Dunno if anyone who used to read this is still subscribed, but uh, if you are, uh, HI!

 

We’re still alive. I mean, We are. We humans. And our dog. And several cats. But that’s another story. Back to the point. 

 

The farm…not so much. It’s a sad story, and hardly a unique one, but we simply could not afford to continue to take on and pay the debt required in order to keep it running. My health was on the decline anyway due to my chronic autoimmune issues and the winters were just too difficult to do anything but the bare minimum to keep the animals going. His workload increased as greater duties were piled onto him at work, and being an hour plus from home meant getting home after dark or damn near it most nights. That meant I was here alone struggling to try to maintain most of the routine chores myself.

 

I can’t remember if we’d already discontinued our goat herdshare program the last time I wrote, but frigid winters alongside my severe asthma that is badly triggered by cold air meant that in an unheated barn, I couldn’t spend any more time than it took to feed and water them before I was in the danger zone. So I couldn’t milk them, and we couldn’t sustain a year-round herdshare program, and people needed/wanted their goat milk weekly. Truly, with the size of the herd we had, we needed the income from the herdshare program in order to just help defer the cost of keeping the herd.

 

The chickens, ducks, pigs, turkeys, all the same. It was too hard for me to do most of the routine chores every day, and he was understandably burnt out from his off-farm job when he got home, so all he did was work, whether at his employer or at home. We needed to be able to keep the animals alive in an enriched, clean environment in order for them to produce food we could eat and sell, and there was just no way to do it.

 

We couldn’t afford to pay ourselves, much less hire anyone else to perform the tasks we did (and those we couldn’t get to for the aforementioned reasons.) 

 

We never made a profit. It was all L’s for nearly a decade. We took on massive debt we’re still paying off. Yes. Still. 

 

Our money, credit and labor were spent to ultimately help subsidize food for our customers, because what we charged never covered our costs. But we were already charging a premium compared to the BigAg produced food in the supermarket, and didn’t want to lose what customers we had by raising prices. It wasn’t their fault that our food system is built this way. We really started to focus harder on the systemic issues we were facing in farming. Dissatisfaction with our food system in the US had been one of our motives in growing our farm, so we could produce for others to benefit from pasture-raised foods rather than those raised in massive confinement factories. But no matter what we saw on Food Inc or read from Joel Salatin, we found ourselves unable to afford – either in terms of time, energy, money or more often a combination of all three being available when needed – what was needed to achieve what documentaries and prolific farm authors insisted was possible. 

 

It occurred to us that if we, so-called “middle-class” people struggled to do so, what must it be like for people with even fewer resources? Both of us were paying closer attention, beyond idealistic sloganeering and pitches about how to do sustainable farming. We started asking specific questions about actions and things, not just ideas and hopes. How were people who are successful at doing what we were trying to be successful at achieving their success? And those who were struggling like we were, what were their struggles and how did they relate to our own? Were there common threads and repeating patterns to which we should be paying better attention and taking into consideration in our analysis? We really wanted to get to the root causes of our failures. 

 

And that is how we eventually found our way to class consciousness: the realization that we live under a system based in classes, and not usual ones we had been raised to believe are represented in the US (lower, middle, upper). The middle class is mostly an illusion, and anyone being honest about things in the US must reach that conclusion. It’s served as another division to pit one class against the other, thus helping the US ruling/owning class to maintain their grasp on power over the rest of us, the working class, which includes both so-called lower and middle class people. We started evaluating things by considering who actually benefits materially from something. In our case, with a small family farm, we realized the real material beneficiaries were corporate farm supply chains and the creditors who help finance your ability to keep your farm going. 

 

The brutal realization that it was not realistic for us to continue farming slowly but surely dawned on us. We were depressed, angry, disappointed, and reluctant to let it go. But we gradually reduced the number of animals we were keeping by rehoming them, until we no longer had any. My health, his health, our relationship’s health, our finances, and our life quality were all drained. Our hearts broke because those critters were family to us, every goat had a name and a personality and we loved them all so damn much. We got lucky because we found some 4H families to rehome them with and we got to hear some stories and get some pictures before those connections faded. My chest aches right now writing about them. It’s hard. But they got good homes and we have to tell ourselves we did the best we could under the conditions we found ourselves stuck in at the time. 

 

2018 was the last year we had the goats, they were all gone by November. I had a breakdown the end of that year, and the ending of the farm was a big contributor. The right thing to do is often the most difficult. I’m still hurting about it, and probably always will. The barn, coop ad pasture have been haunted by their ghosts for me all these years since. I still wake up in the middle of the night in a panic when coyotes are yipping nearby. 

 

I think that’s all I’ve got to write for now. I’ve been up all night and I’m trying to wear myself down for some semblance of sleep soon. Sibilance. But if you want me to write more, I’ll reflect in more detail about some of the stuff I got into here. Let me know. 

 

 

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2 responses to “Seven Years Later”

  1. Teresa Kreucher Avatar
    Teresa Kreucher

    Good writing, One chapter closes and a new one opens. It was a good experience for Toby.

  2. Jennifer Lee Avatar
    Jennifer Lee

    Good writing. Some similarities to our farm experience. When Joe lost his career job in the 2008, we had to rehome our animals which included 4 horses, 7 dogs and 5 cats. I still can’t look at photos without getting weepy. We lost our 17 acre farm and a rental house where we raised our kids. I can relate to your distress and sorrow. Hugs 💜

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