I’ve been thinking about the terms “homesteading” and “farming” lately, usually as we make the 45 minute drive there and back again. What term will describe us? What is it, exactly, that we want to accomplish by moving out there and throwing our lot in so intimately with the land and the soil? Will we be self-sufficient? Will we earn an income from this? Or will we be glorified gardeners only?
What’s the difference?
As I understand it, a homesteader wants to raise and preserve the food, clothes and other necessities used by their family, and oftentimes lives off-grid of the services provided by remote infrastructure.
A farmer, on the other hand, usually raises food and animals with the intent to sell them and make a profit. Farmers make their living by selling what they grow.
And gardeners? Well, gardeners grow things just for pure joy of growing them. They can grow vegetables to eat, but they don’t rely on those vegetables as the main source of their food.
What do we want?
I guess I should start with why we’re moving out to the country in the first place.
My husband grew up in a farmhouse built in the 1890s and situated on 40 acres in a farming community on the Oregon coast. They eventually moved to town, but his dad kept the farm and has continued to work on it, planting trees and maintaining the fields, in his spare time. Jasper and I became interested in gardening during my senior year of college, and that interest continued to grow, especially after we moved to a very rural community in central Oregon where farming and ranching is popular. Around that time we began to talk about what we wanted the rest of our lives to look like. We wanted to take our love and interest in gardening, and turn it into something more. Jasper always wanted to move back out to the country, recalling a relatively idyllic childhood there, and I’d grown up dreaming of fields and farm animals. We wanted children, and we wanted our children to grow up healthy and happy, surrounded by nature and knowing where their food comes from, and how to produce it. Over the course of the last six years we’ve had those children, we’ve moved back to our hometown, and we’ve started talking about taking over the reins of the farm from my father-in-law.
What we want, ultimately, is to build a small house in what’s dubbed the “upper field,” and to grow and raise as much of our own food on the 40 acres as we can. We want to sit on our porch and drink tasty beverages involving freshly plucked and sun-warmed strawberries while watching our kids play in the fields. We want solitude, birdsong and getting dirty in the garden. I want to indulge my love of farm animals and rough-hewn fences. That’s really pretty much it.
Jasper has a career that he loves that has nothing to do with farming, and while I would love to sell any excess that we might have down the line, our vision for the farm is not about making a living, but making a life.
So what will we be?
Technically, we won’t be a farm. But even though, if everything goes according to plan, we will have the capacity to be off-grid, I don’t want to call ourselves ‘homesteaders’ either. I don’t sew (nor do I think myself likely to learn), I only grudgingly cook and bake, and though we want to provide our own food, we will most likely still be card-carrying Costco members for life. And as for being ‘gardeners,’ well, we’re that but we’re also so much more.
So what are we? What will we be? We don’t really fit into any of the above terms. Idealistic and excited gardening-homesteaders-and-maybe-future sort-of-farmers?
We’re just us, and I guess we defy definition.