In the modern world, we’ve managed to somehow lead ever-busier yet increasingly uneventful lives. Our jobs put us under pressure and create a heavy burden of chronic stress. Meanwhile, the pervasive influence of technology fills our leisure hours with all manner of distractions.
And that was all happening before the pandemic.
Covid-19 brought upheaval and uncertainty to our world. Those effects are known to make people seek out nature as a refuge.
Even before the age of the coronavirus, many people were turning to farming as an escape from the oppressive daily grind. Living away from the stress of the city, closer to nature, and relatively free from modern devices has an undeniable appeal.
But farming is not gardening. It’s an all-or-nothing endeavor. In practice, you can’t actually be a part-time farmer in the same way you might log a four-hour shift as a store clerk, for instance.
So if you’ve ever aspired to this lifestyle, the big question remains: is it practical to quit your job and run a farm?
The basic logistics involved
Modern technology has made agriculture a vastly more efficient practice than ever before. Custom tractor builds can perform several operations while covering vast and varied swaths of terrain. The right Duncan drill parts can significantly increase yields with fast and efficient seed placement and terrain breakup.
Taking advantage of such economies of scale gives the upper hand to the biggest farming operations. A growing trend in the industry is that the bulk of agricultural produce comes from so-called ‘megafarms,’ and it’s set to continue in the future.
What this implies for the aspiring first-time farmer is that you need to start by thinking on a small scale. Don’t expect to start turning a profit with your first harvest. There is a steep learning curve, and you will definitely fail several times.
Think about sustainability and survival. How much land do you need to feed a family? According to some basic estimates, individual consumption on a modern scale would require one football field of land to sustain. But through smart and efficient practices, you can downsize that to an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Can you afford that sort of land in an area that’s suitable for farming? If not, don’t go into debt to do so. You’re unlikely to pay it back for years, and it will only increase the pressure on you to succeed quickly.
The matter of time
Another reason why farming appeals to so many modern employees is its promise of leisure. Economists studying medieval peasants’ lifestyles have found that on average, they might have enjoyed more than half a year of effective vacation time.
Many of us work 9-to-5 on paper, but even more in practice. Work bleeds over from beyond office hours and into our personal lives through emails, calls, and colleagues’ messages. Workers often feel afraid to take vacations because it can create a negative perception or leave them behind in a competitive environment.
But this comparison isn’t straightforward. The medieval peasant might not have worked many days, but those days of work were intense, physical, even back-breaking. Their leisure hours were filled with time-consuming household activities. And they didn’t really have the disposable income to deal with emergencies.
The issue of work hours really comes down to your skill of time management. It’s a lot like starting your own business. You might be your own boss, but if you’re not efficient, you’ll get nowhere. If you’ve nailed the habit of maximizing every hour and minute, you can succeed as a farmer.
Thinking like an entrepreneur
This ties into the bigger picture: the fact is, farming equals entrepreneurship. On the most basic level, you’re seeking to turn raw inputs from nature into a product that sustains your living.
And on a larger scale, you want to deliver value and really connect with local customers. Because we don’t just work to survive from day to day, we want disposable income and a better quality of life.
Unlike medieval peasants, we can use our money to pay for modern medicine and survive injury or disease. We can also make luxury or experiential purchases or pay for further education. Affording these things can improve your life but ultimately requires your farm to be run more profitably.
Thus, if you want to be a farmer, ask yourself if you’re ready to start a business. Do you have the mindset, determination, and appetite for risk and continued learning? It will require the same combination of qualities to elevate farming beyond mere escape.