Monday, February 8, 2010

White Collar Farmer

I often think that I would have liked to have been something besides a business professional. I guess it’s because I’m just not sure I was actually intended to be a white collar sort of guy. Sure, I am thankful for the opportunities I have been afforded in Corporate America, but the rewards come at a price in my view and a more simple existence is often nagging in the back of my mind. The “ROI” as we say in the business world, just seems to always balance out in the red when it comes to expending life. The incalculable time spent away from family, the wear of office politics, the drama, the red tape, lack of recognition, and little hope of enjoying any fresh air until the day is long gone - all seems a bit unnatural and degrading. The time just goes “whooshing” by. And to what cause? To support my family, well of course, and do the best I can for them. The hope is that I might retire before I am too old to otherwise enjoy life. This is what I and many others do and what we strive for. In the words of Steve Turner, “What's selected is average. What's average is normal. What's normal is good.” And while it is easy to justify this average life, it often leaves me wandering personally - is this the life I was intended for or is there something else I could or even should be doing with the time I have been given?

There are several Christian responses here and they all want to well up simultaneously. I could quickly jump to ministry as an alternative.  This is something I have always been passionate about anyway.  I could easily argue for the impact I might have if I were simply more intentional in my witness while at the office or if I regarded my time at work as having a more divine purpose. I believe those things would perhaps all be true and I do not refute any of them. I also know God can and does use us, despite ourselves but cooperation helps a great deal. But I wonder if some of those responses are partly a cop-out; an appeal to my faith as justification for an otherwise selfish and wasteful existence. I guess my wondering appeals toward something more basic and simple. For me, I think sometimes a more simple life might be nobler and better justified. It sounds crazy but about 10 acres with old hardwoods, a mix of natural wood and stone fences, and small but fertile fields sounds like a great start. A relatively small but comfortable house would do; something with a nice front porch, a well equipped kitchen, and an old stone fireplace. Even better would be if this little farm were not far from the coast.

And what on earth would I do with such a place? Mostly farming I guess - growing and tending to fruits, herbs, and vegetables, heirloom trees, and a small vineyard. I might also raise some stock, mostly chickens, sheep, and a few Jersey cows. Yes, I would be a farmer of sorts, but the most ideal circumstance to me would be to land a few deals to supply nearby restaurants with organically grown, seasonal produce. The varieties grown would be specially suited to gourmet cooking and to supplying some of the more hard to find items. Admittedly farming would not be nearly the same notoriety as say a business executive, but just as rewarding in the end in my mind.

Most importantly, I would be with my family; with my girls teaching them and instructing them. I would have more time for them and for the Lord. The daily commute would consist of coming and going just the same, but it would never require that I leave home. My time and energy would be equally if not more exhausted, sure, but at least the fruits of my labor would affect me and my family directly. I imagine such an endeavor would not likely have the propensity to provide me or my family any great fortunes, but perhaps it might overall be time better spent. Now don't start getting too worried. I am not entertaining this alternative life too seriously, but perhaps one day I might. One just wonders about such things.


  1. "...Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay."

  2. Been following you for a while...good stuff man...I mean it! I really was not gonna post...not sure if what I'm about to say makes sense or not but, reading someone's blog without them knowing kinda makes me feel creepy at times.
    My name is Adam Langenmayr...I found your blog through Captain John's saltwater fly fishing blog. I share many interest with you and after reading this last post, I just had to comment. I often share the same sentiments that you profess in this latest entry.
    Anyway, just felt called to leave a comment. I have a blog as well if you are is piddly compared to yours but fun just the same...if you have any interest to look at ya go:

    Take care--Adam

  3. I SOOOO hear you on this one! My hubby and I are starting to consider, between 5 - 10 years from now trying to buy some land near water and I want to run a small self sustaining farm, where any extra can be sold and/or donated. Since I previously hadn't been able to successfully grow anything, I started volunteering in a crop garden in a local state park and now have a very small container garden going (since I'm on a rented lot, I can't plant). I'm looking into herb fences/spirals, permaculture, energy alternatives, etc... if you want to chat about thing to lessen the need to depend on a grid, lemme know!

  4. Adam, I am always humbled to hear of people reading my blog. I guess in the great sea that is the www, it's sometimes hard to imagine anyone finding my obscure little blog. I've gotta tell you your blog is looking great so fact you have a new follower. I have found if nothing else, "blogging" is just another creative outlet. Looking forward to seeing some more of your photography. Take care and God Bless.

  5. After my granddaddy retired from the railroad he bought a few acres way outside of Dothan, Alabama, built a two bedroom house and planted his gardens. He used to raise chickens before when he still lived in town and I remember the first time granny rung one of their necks for some chicken and dumplings the next day. I can still see that chicken running around in circles. I wanted to laugh but it was obvious the chicken wasn't having any fun. The bumping into everything kind of gave that away.

    In the country he raised pigs and they became my pets away from home whenever I visited. They also made great sausage, bacon and pork chops. As far as his garden went ... he grew every vegetable I had ever eaten: green peas, black-eye peas, butter beans (lima beans), squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelon, cucumbers, green peppers, cayenne peppers, banana peppers, white onions, garden onions, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, collards, spinach, lettuce and cabbage. I remember all of them and where each grew in his garden because I spent many at-dawn mornings out with him picking them all. And I did my share of cleaning, shucking and hulling. The canning and preserving was left up to the woman folk.

    He also had muscadines and scuppernongs vines and peach, red and green apple and pear trees. Across the road was a distant relative's peanut field and along the fences were blackberry patches. I spent most of many summers with granny and granddaddy so if I ever felt the need for a snack I would just walk out back. Their water came from a well and there was nothing better than pulling a fresh carrot, or popping off a few black-eye peas or tearing off a few leaves of cabbage ... then giving them a quick well water washing and chowing down.

    Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary lived a stone's throw away and they raised chickens. A gigantic fig tree ... which I climbed often ... was in their backyard and it abundantly supplied us with sweet summer fruit. Someone else nearby grew sugar cane and just down the road from them were wild plum trees and a mile or two past that were all the squirrels, rabbits, quail and dove one cared to shoot, clean and cook. And should we have the hankering for fresh fish ... Lake Eufaula and White Oak Creek were an hour away. Or we drove a mile or two away in another direction to fish at a neighbor's pond or set out catfish lines underneath the old bridge at another creek.

    To me it was ... and still is ... the ideal life and I miss it often. So ... should you decide to start that farm then know this ... what I do as a landscaper is just one step removed from being a farmer. So if you need someone to run that farm ... Will work for fresh food!

    Uncle Mike