I have heard it said that a gardener grows fruits and vegetables and a farmer sells the same. I would add that a gardener often shares much of what they grow.
I have been having a bit of an identity crisis as to which category I wanted to be a part in.
I love to grow things. Whether it is over winter and I am starting seeds or when pineapple is both priced nicely and has fresh green leaves and I add another to my small collection, I love the process of watching and supporting these lives. Additionally, like so many growers, I take pride in the much more complex flavors that I get than can be found in any supermarket. In the past year that same pride has grown to include how I feel about the eggs produced by my chickens.
Welling with this pride, I have regularly shared the profits of my labor (and that of my hens) with friends and family members. As a matter of fact the only reason one of our best friends wasn’t forced to take a carton of eggs home to his family was because he had to fly to get there. Today I was able to broaden my pool of people to share these improved flavors with, as my husband took homemade breakfast burritos to his new office.
So where is the problem? It comes in trying to find balance. I have only canned my produce for the last two years, and that in a sporadic way. Yet I have two goals for myself and my family where my garden is concerned. The first is that I reduce our dependence on the grocery store by providing more of our food from my own labor. The second is that I find a way to earn some income from my efforts.
In no small way, it goes against the grain for me to keep all of my harvest. Perhaps I am letting others down when I tell them I have canned or frozen close to six months worth of corn. Making sauce certainly takes a lot of tomatoes, and I have not shared any of that harvest yet this year. As I begin to feel like a hoarder, I wonder if I will be willing to part with any of my abundance at our local farmers market…
I have determined that I am not willing to follow the constrictive route of production agriculture. I have never romanticized farming in my mind, knowing that there are any number of natural occurrences that will cause a farmer to have an unproductive year-drought, disease, insects, natural disaster, etc. Additionally, as more and more farmers are contracted to provide only a limited selection of produce-causing modern farmers to produce only one or two products-one bad year can be calamitous to such a grower.
The only area of confidence I currently have is my orchard, which we planted just this spring and currently consists of only 11 trees. This I have a clear goal for; as my trees grow and become productive I hope to host “Pick your own” weekends. I know those trees will produce more than my family will consume. I know that even with canning and putting by in other ways I will have excess. And I know I have enjoyed visiting such locations in my past. I am certain such a venue would bring fun to my family and my community and some profit to myself.
I never expected my homestead to cause me so much indecision…..