In New Farm Plan, Part 1, I made an outline for creating my new farm plan. In this post I’m going to start getting into the big picture with my first brainstorming session. Lifestyle seemed like an great place to start. It’s inevitable that the farm will impact my lifestyle and my lifestyle will impact the farm. Going through the following questions helped define my expectations and clarify my thoughts.
Some Questions on Lifestyle
Do I have any guiding farm philosophies?
As I create my own system of farm-practices, I’ll continue getting inspiration from and learning more about:
- Ecological Design
- Organic Farming
- Market Gardening
- Companion Planting
- Crop Rotation
- Succession Planting
- Season Extension
- More as I find out about them, I’m sure
The Three-Legged Stool of Sustainability
At the 2016 Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) Conference, I sat in on a talk given by Jim Munsch of Veggie Compass. He covered a concept called the three-legged stool of farm sustainability, which includes:
Ecologically sound production practices
Economically sustainable business practices
Ethical & nurturing treatment of people touched by the enterprise
But I like thinking through the pieces that would create my days:
Labor on the farm
Career and Hobby: Marketing, sales or content creation for the farm, freelance work, reading and writing. Some hobbies I really enjoy do have some extra income potential.
Giving Back: volunteering, community involvement and donation/charity
Leisure, family, friend and fun
Do I want to make money from the farm?
Well, I certainly don’t want to just sink money into it. At the size I’m thinking, I do expect the farm to sustain itself. If it could provide extra income for improvements to the house and land, that would be a bonus. I guess it might be easier to say – I don’t have plans now for the farm to be my sole-income, but I’m open to it as things progress.
What ways could I make money off the farm?
Right now, I’m interested in selling vegetables, flowers or eggs in some way. I do have a few ideas I’ve been thinking through, but nothing thought-out enough to mention. However, reflecting on this now… it’s probably something I should give more thought to. I just said above that the farm will need to make something to sustain itself! Depending on what I decide, it may affect my farm plan or layout.
What about self-sufficiency?
My immediate goal with the farm is not self-sufficiency. I admire those out there that pursue it, but I don’t see it fitting into my plan right now. I will actively work towards sustainability and prioritize lessening the impact of what I do choose to do.
Will the farm be my full-time job? How much time do I expect to put towards the farm?
As a freelance designer who works from home, I have some flexibility on the hours I work. The plan right now is to continue to do that as well as build up the farm. I’ll be busy, but I know that going into it.
Will I have help on the farm?
I’m sure friends and family will help if I have a one-off, big thing to do, but otherwise, not really. My husband is not interested in farming, and we came to an understanding before purchasing the property. I won’t plan on any regular labor time besides myself.
Why a farm? Why go through the trouble?
Because I love it! It’s productive work, I find value in it and I think about it all the time. I enjoy the process and the rewards.
What are my overall goals for the farm?
When I started brainstorming, my mind immediately went to very specific things I wanted to grow or do. I tried to take a step back and imagine my life on the farm to determine some main goal “buckets”. It was hard not to get into the details yet! I listed out all my ideas, then evaluated how they related to each other. I feel like the buckets I ended up with accurately reflect my main priorities.
Quality of Life & Environment
Reduce labor inputs // create an outdoor space my family loves // actively give back to the land
- Spaces for family activities: fire pit, outdoor kitchen and eating area, wood oven, space for playing/adventuring
- Efficient energy and labor planning: harvest, wash and process area, storage area, compost location, tool location, access to buildings, equipment and plots
- Structures: shed, greenhouse, high tunnel, cold frames
- Environmental Experiences: wildlife plantings and areas, moon garden, fragrance garden, pollinator garden
- Less Work: lower labor intensive activities like watering, lawnmowing, weeding, importing compost
- Forest Edge Management
- Farm Dog: possible deer management and animal protection
- Move towards sustainability: line drying, natural home products, root cellar, food preservation, solar panels, water catchment
- Giving back: land and wildlife, soil, sharing things I learn, volunteering, being involved in the community, charity/donation
Grow healthy food // manage animals for food and work // specialty products
- Seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers
- Animals: contribute in ways other than meat – chickens for bed prep & eggs, ducks for eggs, goats for brush clearing and possibly milk later on
- Specialty: syrup, perennial crops, mushrooms, orchard
Let curiosities lead // hobby & interest support
- Experiments: plant breeding, seed collection, variety trialing, observational studies, various growing techniques
- Hobby Support: natural dyeing, bread making, cooking
- Interesting topics: using weeds to read soil, cleaning & restoration with plants, wildlife/farm ecology
In the next brainstorm, I’ll get into specifics for projects and ideas, prioritization and whys.