I farm 1/20th of an acre. That's about 750 fewer than what I grew up on. I have a micro-farm, but that's what fits my lifestyle right now. I work a full time job off the farm, and my micro-farm is a profitable hobby. I love continuous improvement, optimization and lean systems, which has driven some of my mindset to turn my hobby into a profitable venture.
I sometimes feel conflicted with the fact that I'm farming part-time. Sometimes I think I'd rather be farming full time. As I reflect on the place in life that the Lord has placed me, I'm comforted by 3 of my farm heroes, who at various points in their life, also farmed part-time.
My dad, Jim, is the sixth generation from a line of Howertons who settled a farm in West Central Missouri. He was born in the middle of the 1950s and grew up in the era of tractor power, but not the ones that are very comfortable to operate! He's a very calm, gentle, driven man. He farmed for nearly 40 years, then spent the next 2 decades of his life in the public sector, serving as a State Representative in Missouri's 120th District, as well as various other administrative roles. He worked double duty, keeping Missouri tax dollars working effectively, and through the 1990s, strained to keep the family farm moving productively through some of the most difficult family-farm economic terrain of the 20th century. He's a very hard worker who never complains.
He was granddad to me, and was part of The Greatest Generation. Born in 1926, he served during WWII, then took over the farm at the age of 19 when his father was tragically killed in a farming accident. I got to work many hours with him through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, and learned much of my farming and mechanical skills from him. The longest bit of time I worked with him was over a summer during college - we cleared about 100 acres of brush, me with a chainsaw, and he with a Caterpillar Bulldozer. It was miserably hot, but I didn't know how much I would treasure this time I had with him. He was a quick witted jokester. He was an incredibly hard worker, but such a gentle guy and nearly always had a smile, or smirk on his face. I laugh as I write this, thinking of how much fun he could have with the simple moments of life. In his retirement years, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to become a real estate broker and open his own real estate company.
As in America's 2nd president. What a guy. I read about him recently in David McCoulough's Biography. He was an amazingly successful diplomat in our country's uncharted, formative years who ended up following George Washington as president. And the guy LOVED farming. After his years as president, he longed to remove himself from the public eye and earn his living from his farm 15 miles south of Boston in Braintree, MA. He and Thomas Jefferson, one of America's most intelligent thinkers, exchanged letters about the happenings of their farms, and which cover crops they found to be most effective. As I plant buckwheat for my honeybees, I think of Jefferson telling Adams how well it was growing in rotation on his farm at Monticello.
Three amazing men who I take inspiration from as I pursue the work in front of me, either on, or off the farm.