All the rage today is the talk about “organic” gardening and farming. We hear talk about how in the past, people didn’t use chemicals and how we need to return to their more responsible ways. This is true.
Unfortunately, you can’t up and START to farm organically. Organic farming requires that an entire farm be in place so that the farm itself produces the resources it needs. For example, to fertilize “organically” you need animal manure. To have animal manure you need animals. To have animals you need feed, which means you have to buy feed before you can ever fertilize with manure. At $8+ per 50lbs., animal feed is expensive. However, it is a necessary expense to start your form…and it isn’t going to be grown organically. If it is, you won’t be able to afford to feed it to animals.
You’re not going to garden organically in a suburb. Yes, things may be “organic” on your property, but you are dependent on a whole system of non-organic production to get your supplies to the local garden shop for you. It may be cute to say “this is organic”, but you’re not helping any of the problems caused by modern suburban culture. It’s the centralization of population and the transport of products to supply that population that causes all the problems. Don’t imagine “environmentally friendly” products or methods are really helping anything. This is straining our gnats but swallowing a camel, as Jesus said.
To start an organic farm, you have to create a conversion plan by which you slowly establish a self-supporting farm. It starts with animals and compost piles, where you create your soil and fertilizers. You will not profit on this new farm and you must have a long-term vision, thinking of enjoying a beautiful organic farm in, say, 5-7 years. As your manure piles grow, your gardens will improve. As your gardens improve, your grocery bill will decrease. As you grocery bill decreases, your energy bills will decrease (no need to heat and cool food). As your energy and grocery bills decrease your need from cash income will decrease. As you need for cash income decreases, you can pull back from the business world and devote more time to managing your farm. As you work your farm more, everything will start to come together. After a few years, your gardens will increase in size and you will be able to get a field ready for your first try at wheat or corn. Your first crop will probably be sacrficed for your own learning and setting up your equipment to grow, harvest and process the crop. After another year, you’ll be ready for your first crop of grain…and if you succeed, you’ll be done buying animal fee. Then, you’ll be in business and ready to start talking about “organic” farming.
It’s a multi-year process that requires the cooperation of an entire family. It can be done, but not without sacrfice. Those who desire it, get it. It should be obvious that borrowing $500k would never allow you to farm organically. You’re not trying to build a suburban life in the country and you won’t be able to afford both. If you want the comforts of the suburb, stay there. If you count the difficulties of the country worth the benefits, then you have a shot. It’s a life of simplicity and it requires that one seek satisfaction from religion rather than food and pleasure. It is an austere life that requires mental and physical toughness. You have to count the costs, though, and make sure your idea of farm life is realistic and not childish. Farmers don’t sit around pushing little girls in dresses on tree swings and making ice-cream as if this is the Garden of Eden. It’s constant work with great benefits–but the benefits pertain to virtue and wisdom, not satisfy the desires of the flesh.
Organic farming requires a complete system of farm management that, in the past, was taken for granted. Today, you’re going to have to re-create that system and it will take a few years to do. You should enter into farming with an external source of income because there will be investments needed. However, if you work hard and maintain a plan to slowly wean yourself off of products brought in from outside the farm and off the need for cash income, you will enjoy the good life…or at least your children will.