Farming. Daddy.

Daddy and me, 1965.

Lately I’ve been sitting around fantasizing about a little farm, with a wee house, and a kitchen with a door so that I could produce baked and canned goods for sale. The door is necessary to keep our four cats out so that I could pass a health inspection. See, I’m even practical in my daydreams.

This is a frequent fantasy for me. I say fantasy because I know full well how nearly impossible it is to earn a living doing such a thing. When I read blogs such as Let it Grow, Moonmeadow Farm, and Farmgirl Fare, I am smitten with terrible jealousy at the same time that I realize that these people are working their asses off. I don’t think that I have the physical stamina to do the work or the emotional stability to take the risks that they do.

I could farm a few acres of my family farm. Currently my brother rents most of it out to a large tobacco farmer. He raises a few cattle, but he has pretty much given up farming. He works a full-time job at an agriculture chemical company. Talk about irony – one of the reasons he has to lease his land so cheaply is because it is worn slam out from years of “better farming through chemistry.”

Converting it to organic would take an enormous amount of work. And a lot of debt and no income for a few years. And risking severe depression since I have long said that I’d rather slit my wrists than move back to rural eastern North Carolina. And leaving my husband, since he is a sane city boy and there’s no way in hell he would do this. There’s also the matter of rampant fire ants, nasty cottonmouths, huge rattlesnakes, and cat-eating dogs. And a serious lack of knowledge about farming and business.

I’m thinking about our farm today partly because it is the anniversary of my father’s death from colon cancer nineteen years ago. I am an entirely different person than the wild rebellious young artist that he knew. How would he, a former agriculture teacher in the age of the Green Revolution, the descendant of generations of farmers, react to the ideas that I write about? The die was already cast for small farmers by the time my father passed away, and he knew it. Would he cheer these “new” ideas or dismiss them as so much liberal fantasy? I don’t know. He was a complicated man.

I do know this – my father would be very pleased that I am growing my own food, studying agriculture and exploring the idea of farming. If he was here, he and I would discuss these topics for hours, even if he thought the whole thing was nuts. He would give me very good advice, and help me build things. And I can guarantee you one thing – he would think that George Dubya Bush is a moron. He had no patience for stupidity or spin or impracticality. The last election he voted in, he cast his vote for Walter Mondale…and Jesse Helms. Like I said, he was a complicated man.

I vividly remember Daddy shaking his finger at me yelling that I’d better vote for Jesse no matter what kind of a jerk he was because tobacco was what supported our family and I’d better remember that. After Jesse was re-elected that time, he shifted from the agriculture committee to the foreign relations committee, and Daddy’s vote was wasted.

Tobacco farmers are learning to grow grapes now. What would he think of that? My brother says that some farmers in the area are trying no-till agriculture. I wish that he and I could talk to Daddy about these things. I wish that I could argue with Daddy about politics, or whether Brandywines taste better than German Johnsons. I want to know the names of the varieties of blueberries he planted.

So, today I’m thinking about farming, and I’m thinking about Daddy. The two subjects are really inseparable for me. He so much wanted one of us to go on farming on this land.

Daddy and me, 1986.

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