Freedom On The Farm

Academic Anne Buchanan relates the daily routine of her sister Jennifer, a dairy farmer in Vermont:

Farmers have an old saying: ‘I’ll keep farming until the money runs out.’ Working a small farm makes for a hardscrabble life — no time off and always something more to do, usually for very little pay. But, after the animals are hayed, grained, watered, milked and midwifed, sick ones taken care of, hooves trimmed, bales of hay stacked in the haymow or the driveway ploughed — and more often than not, the neighbour’s too — broken pipes fixed, the neighbour’s errant cows shooed back into their fields, milk processed and yogurt made, the broken hay tedder repaired midfield, lunch served and dinner prepared; if there’s any time left in the day, and amazingly there often is, Jennifer and Melvin are free to do whatever they want to with it. They answer to no one. They can make jam, build retaining walls, throw together a loaf of bread, make soap, sew scrub suits for the daughter who’s a nurse, install an outdoor wood-burning furnace. Melvin has even been known to come in from milking at 2am and pick up whatever history book he’s currently reading and not get to bed until dawn.

It’s a demanding way to live, but Jennifer and Melvin love it. Small farmers have to love what they do, because they’re not in it for the money.