Wisdom Leading to Freedom for Farmers
Proverbs is a great book of wisdom. Here is one of my favorite, but difficult nuggets: “The wealthy rule over the poor; a borrower is a slave to a lender” Proverbs 22:7. In our modern world, this piece of great wisdom seems awfully hard to live by. Didn’t Solomon know that cars, travel, land, equipment, education and houses all cost lots of money, and that there is no way to have that much cash? It seems like we have to have debt, at least for the big ticket items, but is that really true?
If you want to farm, consider the wisdom of Solomon. Debt seems very easy to come by for farmers. Even the government is involved in helping farmers get loans, so they can buy land or equipment. The problem is that farming doesn’t make very much profit, so paying off the loans can be next to impossible. Stressing about how to pay for things takes the joy out of life, and ironically, most people start farming because it makes them happy! If this is true, then what should a new young farmer do?
It won’t be easy. Start with what you can afford, without going in debt. Till up the back yard! Till up your grandpa’s or your aunt’s back yard. Plow up an empty lot! Borrow some space from anyone you can. You may even find someone willing to lease you land at a reasonable price. We started with not much more than our back yard, a troy-bilt hand tiller, and a hoe. Then, find creative ways to sell your produce, to get some money coming in. Some people like to sell produce at farmers markets, others a CSA, some to restaurants, and some even make prepared products like jellies or soaps. Find your passion. The key will be that you need to do this while still keeping your day job. It takes hard work. Save every dime you can, to reinvest in your dream. This is how Jay and I did it. We BOTH worked full time and farmed less than 2 acres. Then, we lived well below our means in a tiny house, drove old cars, and never went shopping just for the fun of spending. We tried hard to live on the farm income, and socked away our employment income, so we could eventually buy the land and equipment we wanted. It took years, but we did it! We bought a small farm, not a huge million dollar farm. We probably could have qualified for some of the government subsidized or guaranteed loans to help, but in the end, I’m happy we didn’t.
I know everyone has different attitudes and tolerances for debt. If gutting it out, scrimping and saving until you have the cash sounds too hard, at least do your best to borrow as little as possible, and pay it off as quickly as possible. Take my advice: Learn to find joy in the people you love and the beautiful world God made. A small farm won’t support debt or extravagant spending. You will need to have the fortitude to stick it out, working and saving until you can, little by little, build your dream. Even once you buy the farm, you STILL might need to figure out another income. Sometimes the spouse works, others work part time and farm, and some do at home jobs. It isn’t easy, but most worthwhile things aren’t easy. Freedom! That is the goal.
Eat your veggies,