One of our favorite books is Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. If you visit our Farm Store, you will see illustrations from this book hanging on the wall. This precious story of a farm family, set in early-nineteenth century New England, takes on special meaning for us because it is also the story of our family. In the book, the farmer packs an ox-cart to take to market with goods produced by his family on their farm: woolen goods from their sheep, candles, linen, hand-split shingles, carved brooms, garden produce, maple sugar, and goose feathers. Throughout the seasons of the year, our family also works together to produce a variety of products for us to sell. No single product provides our entire living, as is often the case on modern mono-culture farms, but all the little pieces come together to provide our living. It is a good life.
One question we are asked all the time is, “do you make your living from the farm?” The answer depends on what you mean. The farm is not our sole source of income: Kevin writes novels and does freelance design work, and Rachel sometimes picks up odd-jobs on other farms. At this time we do rely on those extra income streams but we also rely on every bit of income our farm business generates as well. To assume that we operate a hobby farm subsidized by an off-farm job would be incorrect. All of our products are priced fairly, taking into consideration the costs of production, and we are so grateful for each sale of a dozen eggs, a bar of soap, or a pint of cherry tomatoes, because they all make a difference in the future success of our farm.
We live by “homestead economy” meaning we do a lot of different things to make our living but do not necessarily receive a regular paycheck. Non-monetary income such as the food we grow, firewood we harvest to heat our home, and other things we can make for ourselves such as soap and clothing count very much toward our overall living. Homestead economy goes hand-in-hand with David Holmgren’s Principles of Permaculture, #1 being “observe and interact,” meaning to observe the resources around you and utilize them in a creative, holistic way to create abundance. When farming a small piece of land, there is always the temptation to wish for more land, but looking at it from a permacultural perspective makes the possibilities for a small parcel endless. We desire to farm better with each passing year, not bigger.
I’ll admit it can be scary at times not knowing where the next paycheck will come from, but it has taught us to trust and rely in our Creator to provide for us, and He has never let us down. Often He sends angels in the form of our neighbors to help us with tasks we cannot do alone.
Somehow the bills are paid every month and we never go hungry. For that we are truly grateful.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26 NKJV
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14 NKJV
From my heart,