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Hell No I Won't Go

 
pollinator
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I was curious as to what would be some compelling reasons for a full-time farmer like me to stay on-farm, farming?

Due to cancer, I can no longer physically raise sheep anymore, so I am working with the USDA in a program that transitions Farmers back to private industry. I am convinced that getting a real job in the private sector is in my best interest, but the Career Advisor I am working with is not so convinced. This is a problem because it is overwhelming...the program has plenty of money so everything is on the table: paid college, on-the-job-training in the private sector, and even transitioning my farm to a commodity I can raise (I can operate tractors).

No one knows me better than myself, with the exception of Katie my darling wife...so I set out to funnel down possibilities in the areas of interest, education, and farming.

So what are some reasons I should keep my farm in farm production? I have come up with the following, but they do not seem very compelling. Any other reasons people can think of?

My farm has the distinction of being: “Vital to the State of Maine Agriculture" so it should remain as a farm
I have a passion for farming
Staying on-farm would allow for income, but also child-care for my four young children
I could better pace himself for the varying physical limitations I sometime have
I could retain medical access (appointment scheduling)

(The educational, and private sector jobs section is going to be looked at in detail later on as well)
 
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Having been around farmers my whole life, its a strange feeling to hear farmers talk about retiring, quitting, doing something else. How can they quit doing the thing that is all they are and all the know? But it turns out for many, farming isn't the whole core of their identity, deeper than nationality, gender and religion. Its just a job, no matter how long one may practice it or like it. Farmland flows from one generation to the next, and not everyone has a dynasty to carry it in some grand tradition. I've seen plenty of old farmers and farm kids move on and do just fine for themselves in other industries.

On the other hand, if a farm and the know-how is the resource in your bin, there's a lot more potential there than in learning to be a programmer or something. *Compelling reasons* are highly personal. Your list has most of the reasons that keep me farming: passion, family, history, flexibility.
I'd add scenery. I like the place itself, more than is rational. I'm not likely to ever own most of the land I farm, but I still love it. There's the corporate-financial part of keeping the expenses and profit rolling, and the equipment-tools part, and the agronomic-biological part.

No matter how much a farmer likes farming, and to some extent their skill is secondary to market forces and ownership problems. Where I'm at, canola was an oddball crop a couple farmers were playing with until a crushing plant was built in the area. Now it's the main thing for some of my neighbors.  

Your compelling reason may be finding the right crop that fits agronomically, financially and you can ship. If it's something fun, that's a bonus.
 
pollinator
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Well for me the best bit about being a farmer is the fact that I'm also a plumber, electrician, builder, excavator driver, salesman, truck driver, irrigation tech, beekeeper....
The list goes on.

Being a farmer makes you a jack of all trades and highly adaptable as things rarely ever go quite the way you've planned.

I know I can do anything if I quit here as long as someone gives me a go and I'm sure you can too.

Just don't stick me in an office for 45hrs a week.
 
Travis Johnson
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I ran some data today and farming came out ahead. I graded myself on the following using percentages, and farming came in at 84%, whereas having a real job came in at 73%. Going back to college scored the worse at 72%.

In other words, based on the following, for me, with 40% of the score being based on logical parameters, and 60% being based on personal interest; I should remain farming, with getting a real job being the next best use of my time, and going to college being last.

Of course that does not mean I cannot do all three. For instance I could take a 12 week training course, then take a survival job using that training for 24 months, and then use the money saved from my survival job, and buy a combine and get into raising small grains on my farm. So that would be an example of how I could do all three in a three year timeline. That ultimately is what I am trying to figure out. How to set myself up for the next few years.

Income Potential:
Fringe Benefits:
Job Availability:
Potential for Failure:
Income to Investment Ratio
Tools Available:
Start Materials:
Skill Set:
Transferable Skill Set:
Advancement Opportunities
Impact on Family Life:
Degree of Community Impact:
Distance of Commute/Travel:
Personal Interest (Passion)
Long Term Learning Potential:
Potential Burn Out:
Degree of Physical Labor:
Attending Medical Appointments:

 
pollinator
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A reason I would choose is being self sufficient by raising your own foods. Especially seeing what's coming for us over the next horizon. I don't want to be all fear mongering but, from what I can tell, there's going to be a food crisis in the near future. ok, go ahead and label me now....LOL
Plus, I'd rather look at this instead of 4 walls and a desk and having to answer to someone else that holds some sort of power over me---Free spirited...
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[Thumbnail for F0A8F20C-8959-4A70-8D52-C0B6814EFDBA.jpeg]
 
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote:I was curious as to what would be some compelling reasons for a full-time farmer like me to stay on-farm, farming?



No need to get your business cards reprinted?  

Honestly, it is so sad to hear so many farmers being forced to move on to other jobs.  I know each situation, like your own, is unique, but each feels like a loss.  Wish I had better suggestions . .  .
 
Travis Johnson
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Phil Gardener wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:I was curious as to what would be some compelling reasons for a full-time farmer like me to stay on-farm, farming?



No need to get your business cards reprinted?  

Honestly, it is so sad to hear so many farmers being forced to move on to other jobs.  I know each situation, like your own, is unique, but each feels like a loss.  Wish I had better suggestions . .  .



It is kind of sad, but us farmers are a product of our own success. We are so frugal that when I did a three year financial projection yesterday, and tossed in me working a real job for $12 an hour (minimum wage); even then we would producing significant savings. Naturally as a family makes more money, they spend more; but we are so frugal now, and have so few bills that I could work about anywhere and be better of financially. That is a pretty big draw.

Since we were so successful at sheep farming, I told Katie we probably should replicate what we did. By that I mean, going back into the workforce, then setting aside money, and building up the means in which to farm a new commodity. What that new thing is, I am not sure. In running the numbers loosely, I seemed small grains would be the best in terms of income to investment ratios.

The good thing is, this old farm, and by old I mean one of the oldest in the country at 274 years old, will still be a farm. I have dairy farmers now that want to lease it, so while I would not be actively farming it myself, it would still be a farm.
 
pollinator
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Working a job is, to me, very expensive money  https://permies.com/t/54918/Working-money-expensive  so of course I advise staying on the farm and farming, if it is what you love and it can support you, however modestly.  Also, avoiding stress is important to being able to handle a difficult illness, so if being on the farm is less stressful than an off-farm job, I advise staying on the farm for your health.

Doing your own small amount of farming and leasing parts of the farm seems like a good compromise.  If you feel you should get a "real job" maybe finding a part time job would be beneficial.

 
pollinator
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Travis, I was wondering if Timber Cruising could be a good fit for you? I realize it involves a certain amount of exertion, but less than a lot of outdoor work. The software they have now to measure, geo-locate, estimate and valuation is pretty cool, and the knowledge and ability to translate the owners wishes to a plan for timber harvest seems well within your ken.
 
Travis Johnson
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James Whitelaw wrote:Travis, I was wondering if Timber Cruising could be a good fit for you? I realize it involves a certain amount of exertion, but less than a lot of outdoor work. The software they have now to measure, geo-locate, estimate and valuation is pretty cool, and the knowledge and ability to translate the owners wishes to a plan for timber harvest seems well within your ken.



I actually almost pulled the trigger on doing this. A sawmill was looking for just this, and was going to give a person 2 years o get a degree even, but the area they worked was in the Western Part of Maine. That is 2-1/2 hours away from my house in good weather. I could have spent the week in my house in new Hampshire which is only 1-1/2 hours away, but it just did not seem like it would be the right part of Maine for me, so I opted not to take the job.
 
Travis Johnson
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We had a long discussion with the Career Advisors for the USDA Disadvantaged Farmer's Program, and really decided we had to come up with a plan. It was a very long meeting, but we decided the best thing right now is for me to take a 12 week course as a Boiler Tech guy, and then see how things progress from there. This will give my medical team 12 weeks to help assess my latest round of cancer, hopefully treat it, then in 12 weeks I can hit the ground running. But at least it is a plan, and not me just trying to figure out what I am going to do.

I like that, and I think I can work it in that I can keep my contracts mowing the sides of the road in the summer for towns because that is when boiler work is the slowest here.
 
gardener
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Travis, have you thought about turning your family farm into a teaching farm? Or a therapy farm?
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I was curious as to
what would be some compelling reasons for a full-time farmer like me to stay on-farm, farming?



I suggest the best reason to compel you to continue is the very long family provenance on your land and the next generation coming along - the kids.

I don't know the economics of your area or your personal needs and desires, but it seems you'll need to progressively reduce the heavy workload and shift to some formula that balances finances, family, and your continuing health issues.

Farming everywhere suffers the same problems - ageing, illness, weather, market issues, etc.

It's been mentioned before: have you considered options like: 'farm stays', wedding ceremony/receptions, producing boutique/gourmet/specialty foods?

These business models would allow you to keep the farm going until the kids are old enough to help, and be a great inheritance for them into the future - succession planning.

It may be worthwhile to contact a local tourism organisation to have a chat:

https://visitmaine.com/places-to-go

No doubt you'll need a pretty website to advertise it all - no physical work needed in that

Did some quick checking - here's examples from Maine:

https://www.maplemoonfarm.com/

https://www.toddypondfarm.com/#knowthestoryofyourfood

Here's three from Australia:

https://www.amaroovalleysprings.com.au

https://www.corynniastation.com.au

https://www.ethicalfarmers.com.au/



 
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