Burning Question: Do You Consider Yourself A Poor Farmer?

Sometimes poverty and wealth aren’t defined by your income statement but by your quality of life.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: Jesse Frost


Editor’s Note: “Burning Questions” takes an in-depth look at the hot-button issues facing today’s farmers. The ideas expressed here are not the opinions of Hobby Farms, but of individual farmers and food advocates rooted in the local-food movement. If you have thoughts or opinions about what is expressed here, please contribute them in the comments below. We want to hear from you, too!

I sometimes wonder if I’m a poor farmer. And if I’m a poor farmer—like my income statement tells me I am—why am I so darn happy?

The truth is, when I examine my lifestyle, I find my work provides me much of what I want and most of what I need. That 10 percent of my income I used to spend on food when I lived in the city? Well, I just grow it now. That $1,200 or so that went towards my yearly gym membership? That’s no longer necessary because my work is my gym—and as a bonus, my exercise grows food and builds soil. As a hobby, I cultivate and hunt mushrooms, which I can now do as part of my job. So in other words, I get my food, my exercise and my entertainment from the same place—the farm.

I could go on and on about how much money farming saves me in health care, leisure activities and so on, but put simply: I’ve discovered that just by being a farmer, I achieve in my daily life much of what I had to pay for when I lived in the city.

There’s probably a good reason for why we do pay for these things. Humans were built to be outside, to work with our hands, and be in the dirt, grass and trees. We didn’t exactly evolve to sit in a chair under fluorescent lighting for eight hours a day. So when we do—and I am by no means judging those who do, as I have been that person—we must pay someone else to fulfill those other needs of exercise, health, food and entertainment. We stress about earning more money so we can do all of them more frequently. It’s a silly cycle, yet we continue work in strenuous jobs we may or may not enjoy to afford more of what that work does not inherently provide for us.

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This makes me wonder: Is my income that much different than anyone else’s? I make less, sure, but I need less, too. My cravings for the finer things have almost entirely disappeared. And this saves me a great deal of money.

Of course, for this to prove true for someone, they have to love what they do. I love farming, but I also know very well that farming isn’t for everyone. Not everyone can be a farmer, and probably not everyone should be. Someone has to run the government, teach the children, make the tractors … buy the food. But I do believe there is something for everyone in this idea. Perhaps if we treated other professions more like farming—demanded more physicality, grew more of our own food, worked more outside and closer to home—we would all be able to look at our incomes more comfortably. Perhaps we could all feel a little more wealthy.

As many great thinkers before me have pointed out, the root of wealth isn’t money or material possession. The root of wealth is wellness. While farming might not put a ton of money in my pocket, it doesn’t have to. Farming, as hard and low-earning as it can be, makes me whole, therefore making me a wealthier person.

Your Thoughts

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 You might not turn a huge profit when farming, but do you consider yourself wealthy in other ways? Let us know for a chance to be featured in this week’s #BurningQuestions post.

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