Farmer

Farmer

Peaceful Valley Farm

La Selva Beach, CA

Female, 47

I've been a full-time farmer for a couple of years now. Our farm is rather small and very diverse. We raise rare and endangered breeds of turkeys and chickens. We also have alpacas, sheep, goats, geese, and recently harvested a 500-lb pig that we raised from a piglet! We grow organically, using heirloom seed stock. I'm able to provide meat and most of the vegetables for our family of 5. In the Spring and Summer, we sell chicks and eggs and have educational farm camps for kids.

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Last Answer on January 28, 2013

Best Rated

Are pigs really as smart as legend would have it? Was there anything particularly noteworthy that Olivia would do that would blow our minds? :))

Asked by Lisa Ann over 6 years ago

I think Olivia was smart, but I'm partial. :-) One notable thing is that she recognized people and sounds. When I opened the screen door in the morning, she jumped up and stared oinking for breakfast. When she heard my voice, same thing. The most interesting thing she did was the way she set up house in her pen. Pigs aren't really filthy animals, like some people may think. She had 2 corners of her pen that were the only place she pooped. A 3rd corner is where she would wallow in mud (and if we didn't make it for her, she'd push her water bowl over there and make it herself) and in the last corner, she took all the hay and what was left of the alfalfa she ate, and built this fabulous, cozy and dry bed. She fussed with it until it was exactly the shape of her snoozing body, and kept it up daily. She also knew how to eat a whole walnut, get the meat and drop the shell. That was pretty wild!

Does farm-raised meat and produce actually taste better? Could you tell the difference blindfolded between that and standard restaurant food?

Asked by e.gabbert71 over 6 years ago

That's a good question, and one that I may have to put to the blindfold test! Of course, the farm raised food feels better, and I definitely can tell the difference in produce (I've become a salad snob when we eat out). I can't eat the produce from a grocery store anymore because it always tastes old to me. The food we grow here (or get from our nearby farmer friends) tastes richer, more full. Which, it probably is since it's fresh and the nutrients haven't had time to degrade. Our bacon is much sweeter and less fat than store bought. Our turkeys and chickens aren't as squishy, and have a much richer flavor than store bought (because they've used their muscles and aren't injected with salt water). Overall, I'd say that the difference in flavor and quality is very obvious and I think I could tell, even with a blindfold.

Is it true that many farmers are multi-millionaires, and do some people get into it for the money alone?

Asked by Portia over 6 years ago

Oh, yeah, totally true. NOT! Anyone who gets into it for the money is in for a big disappointment. Farming is a labor of love and barely (if at all) sees a profit. But, we're rich in many other ways. :-)

Was it a sad day when you had to kill (and eat?) your 500-lb. pig?

Asked by Charlotte over 6 years ago

The day that we harvested Olivia was incredibly hard! I put it off for weeks, I agonized over what it would be like, I had to break it the farm families and kids that had know and loved her for much of their lives (I was always honest with the kids about the fact that this would happen at some point). I wrote a very heartfelt article about it here: http://peacefulvalleyfarm.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/olivia-some-pig/. A month passed before the butcher called to say that she was processed and ready to pick up. We didn't think that she would fit in our chest freezer, so we bought a 14 cubic foot freezer, just in case. When we got to the meat locker, they informed us that we had 160 pounds of bacon and ham, 30 pounds of ground meat, etc... and my husband and I just started laughing, until I cried. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that we had a year of meat, and an animal that I loved, to load into the car (our new freezer is full). In the week since we picked her up, we've had a few pork meals, we gave thanks on Thanksgiving...And I have to say that it is the best meat I've ever had. I don't feel bad, because she had a great life and gave an amazing gift to my family. But, yes, it was really hard to initiate the process.

When you spend time with friends and family who work office jobs, do you ever feel like they look down upon farming as a profession? Do you find yourself having to defend it?

Asked by Scarecr0w over 6 years ago

I don't think I have any friends that don't farm or garden at least part time! I know what you mean though. At first, there were a couple of people that made me feel that way, so I choose not to spend much time with them. My kids were pretty embarrassed at first, but now their friends come over and they show them the animals, eat food off the plants... I have never been in the position of trying to defend what I do as a legitimate job (which I always found myself doing as a full time mom). I think that people are much more aware now than they used to be, so they realize that being a farmer doesn't mean you're less than. I deal with so many people that talk about how important this work is and how hard it must be, which I really appreciate!

Did you used to have a "normal" job or live in the city? What made you decide to give it all up to become a farmer?

Asked by xyzxyz over 6 years ago

HA! I haven't had a "normal" job for 25 years! I worked in retail management in my 20's, then started making soap, put out a line of natural body products, had kids...My career has been raising my 4 kids. The women in my family have always been gardeners, and we usually had chickens when I was growing up. I had them a few times over the years, but with the kids and work, it always proved too much for me to handle alone. 3 years ago, I owned/operated a professional organizing business, and lived in the burbs. I met my (now) husband and he had a dream similar to mine, to live closer to the land, in the country. We moved here, started growing, and I took a week off from my business to test the waters of Farm Camp. We were well received, so I started saving money, then a few months later, closed that business down and started farming full time. I always wanted to do it, but the financial part was daunting. Having a supportive partner who works outside the farm is what allowed me to make the leap. Best. Decision. Ever.

Are farmers economically competitive with each other? Like: if farmer Bob has a particularly successful harvest, will that be detrimental to farmer Dave's share of the market?

Asked by FieldsM over 6 years ago

I can only speak from the experiences in our community. We have a lot of small farms here and it's a pretty tight community. When someone gets hurt or needs help, a farm dinner or fundraiser will pop up. If one farm doesn't have something, they'll point you to the one who does. There's a strong sense of support and friendship and I have never heard of competition. Of course, this might not be the case everywhere.

What's the most frequent question you get from the kids at your farm camps?

Asked by biggups over 6 years ago

Our camps are for kids ages 2-7, so the questions run the gamut! The ones I hear most often (and their answers) are 1) What are the animals names? A) because most of them aren't pets, they don't have names. With about 40 chickens at any given time, it would be impossible. The large livestock have names. 2) Why don't you have cows or horses? A) We don't have the proper fencing (or use) for a cow and horses don't serve a purpose for us. 3) Where do you sleep? (usually asked after taking the tour of all the animal pens) A) In the house (which they usually haven't even noticed until then)

Do farming families get to take vacations? Do you have farmhands who can watch the store while you're away?

Asked by Princeton99 over 6 years ago

We weren't able to take a vacation for the first 2 years. Then we found a great, experienced farmer, at the time without a farm,, who knew exactly how to keep things running. We were able to go away for a full week! Now we've trained our neighbor, and get weekends away whenever we like! We don't have any outside help, besides this.

How have technology and the internet changed farming over the last decade, or is everything still pretty low-tech?

Asked by J.cal over 6 years ago

Social media and the internet have been a big benefit to small farms. We're able to have websites, blogs and Facebook pages (I have all 3 and invite everyone to follow along) that tell people about us, our work, what we have available, etc. It's a great way to communicate, become known, and increase sales. I'm always surprised when a feed store or farm doesn't have an active website or FB page, but there are still some folks who aren't into computers or haven't realized the benefit of doing this!

How much does rainfall (or lack thereof) actually affect your harvests? Don't farmers have irrigation/sprinkler systems at this point, such that one way or another, their crops will get the water they need?

Asked by je55e over 6 years ago

Yes, most farms have irrigation, but that water has to come from somewhere, right? Water costs money. If a farm is lucky enough to have a well (like us) it's much less expensive, the water is, basically, free, but you still have to pay the electric bill to pump the water, maintenance, repairs, etc... The more money we have to put out (or borrow), the more we have to charge for our animals/produce. Because consumers, and the middlemen, are only willing to pay so much, this can mean a serious loss in income. A lot of animal farmers rely on growing their own feed/pasture to keep costs down. When they can't afford the water, and it isn't falling from the sky, they're forced to buy feed, which has an inflated price because the feed growers are having to pay for the water, so raise their prices. It's a vicious cycle. This article, written by a farmer, is really interesting...http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/23/opinion/chinn-drought/index.html

Do you hope that your kids will eventually take over and run the farm when they're of age?

Asked by Jameson over 6 years ago

Unfortunately my kids (like many farmer's kids) have no interest in farming. A lot of family farms are just closing when the parents are too old to work, and the kids want a different lifestyle. It's sad.

If someone wants to get into farming but doesn't have any farmland or experience, what's the best first step? Do farmers hire outsiders?

Asked by Jameson over 6 years ago

I got started by researching and reading books written by people who had done this. "The Accidental Farmers", "Farm City" and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" are all about folks who had no experience and what happened when they got started. There's also a program called WWOOF that can match you up with a farm/farmer where you'll live and get hands on experience for a period of time. Also, lots of small farms welcome interns or volunteers. The only time I have found a need for help, is when I have Farm Camps, then I hire someone with preschool experience. But, yes, there are definitely opportunities to get dirty and learn the ropes.

Is there any way to minimize the manure smell that seems to be everywhere on farms?

Asked by Sorry Charley over 6 years ago

How funny that you ask! We've been having rain for almost a week and the smell is SO bad, I was wondering the same thing! It's much easier to control in dry weather. We do lots of raking and adding wood chips to keep everything decomposing. With the rain and poor drainage, I think all we can do is put down hay and wait for things to dry out.

You said that farming is rarely profitable, but are there any areas of farming that are exceptions to that?

Asked by Jimbeau over 6 years ago

Don't get me wrong, I know lots of farmers who make their living on the farm. But I know even more who have at least one person working off the farm to make ends meet. It's not a get rich type of endeavor. That said, I think that people with a specialty do better than, say, someone growing your run of the mill tomatoes and carrots. Heirloom and organic vegetables are in demand. If a farmer can find a restaurant that wants to buy their specialty produce, that can be a money maker. Other profitable options are farm stays, hosting seasonal events or private events (weddings or parties) or, like we do, farm camps. It definitely takes some creativity to make money, in my experience.

Is there a town vet that you call when an animal gets sick and how does he know how to treat all the different kind of animals?

Asked by Braylen over 6 years ago

We have yet to call the vet for animal illness or injury. There is one, nearby, who is well known and been around for ages. We took our goat kids to him for dis-budding (removing their horns, which I would never do again). There are large animal vets and your dog/cat variety. Usually, they will specialize in certain animals-horses, ruminants, birds or domestics-so we chose one who specializes in farm animals. But, our friend who works with domestics has also trained with alpacas, so they have a general knowledge of all animals.

Do you think current U.S. farm laws do enough to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals?

Asked by Dan79 over 6 years ago

The way I see it, there are two vastly different farming models in the U.S. There is Big Ag, often receiving subsidies from the government, whose goal is to produce mass quantities of cheap food, by any means necessary. Their animals are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and live sad, short lives in cramped and dirty quarters. I don't think that the laws do enough to protect these animals, and are actually part of the problem, not the solution, since the government gives financial aid to this model. On the other hand, there are smaller, more sustainable, often family run homestead farms. These farms, like ours, consider their impact on the earth and the health of the animals that they raise. For us, it's more personal and. As a result, I think the small farm model is treating animals very humanely. Recently, in California, there has been a number of times when a homesteader has been reported to animal services because they were harvesting rabbits or chickens. Investigations are made and one never knows how that will go. In this case, I think that the government is overstepping. Our animals have really good lives, until that one day. It's unfortunate that big business can't come to small farm's way of thinking without a bunch of laws, dictating common decency.

What time do you have to wake up / go to bed?

Asked by Trish over 6 years ago

I've found that the animals will adapt to my schedule, which is perfect! I get up between 6-7AM, mostly because I have to get my kids off to school. I do that, have coffee, check email, then tend the animals about 9. They're used to it, so they wait. During warm weather, I'll get out there earlier to be sure the watering is done and they have plenty of water before it gets too hot. I go to bed between 11-12 at night. zzzzz

My brother and I are trying to raise sheep we have about eleven. What I'de like to know if one is born and is not moving should you throghg water on it to bring it around and if so should it be cold water or warm ? thank you.

Asked by Da Eagle almost 6 years ago

 

Do farmers still use scarecrows?

Asked by Alisa over 6 years ago

 

How do farmers markets work? Are they profitable for you, or is the point just to increase your farm's profile in the community?

Asked by Talia over 6 years ago

 

Do they use human waste as fertilizer?

Asked by samuel watkins over 6 years ago

 

How has being a farmer changed what your diet consists of, if at all?

Asked by Beantown Benny over 6 years ago

 

Do farmers get any special tax breaks for doing what they do?

Asked by brikhaus over 6 years ago