It's farm conference season again, and today was the one for Practical Farmers of Iowa. This is normally my favorite conference and is an affirmation of why we do what we do.
This is fair warning that I'm really going to treat my blog as a diary today.
I don't feel that way after going today. Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was great networking. But I usually come home after one of these things and say, "Ok, what we do is hard, but it's worth it and there's a whole bunch of people rooting for us and doing this journey too." And farming is hard. Really hard. I almost never see my husband. I seldom sit on the couch with him after our daughter's in bed and watch a movie or even just discuss the day.
I still feel like farming is worth it and people are there to help us, but the positive energy is just missing. Ryan works so so very hard all the time, and I feel like it's wearing him out. There's not always enough "we" on this team, and that's how I feel after today. Not because he's not doing his part, but because I don't do enough to help him manage his workload. Yes, I make the money. But I could do that if he didn't farm and he could put his energy into our family instead of a bunch of sheep that just die (we lost two lambs this morning and another one tonight).
We did a planning exercise in a session today. It started with us figuring out what we valued most from a whole long list of options. We had to pick our top 20, then our top 7, then the top 3, then the top 1. We both agreed that family was our number one value. Then we drew "Farmagons" where we made a picture of our farm in 5 years. Here's Ryan's Farmagon.
I have to say I just love his drawing of a cow in the bottom right; it's recognizably a Belted Galloway. The map on the left part of the farmagon is one he's been sketching on every scrap piece of paper in our house for the last 6 months. But this was insightful to me because around the sides of the farmagon you see notes about his capital expense goals for the next five years (one year per side). All of everything is in 2011 and a little bit of 2012. I think this is where we're getting burnout because there's no pacing. It's all crammed up to NOW with this ethereal expectation that some of it will drift into LATER.
Here's my farmagon (we did this exercise without looking at one another's work):
This was surprising to me because it makes my worldview seem so small. I didn't include any pastures or even very much truly "farm-related" in my vision, except that our shop is a functional retail space (the cars I drew are customer cars, not ours). This makes some level of sense because marketing is my bailiwick and while Ryan farms I watch our daughter, but it still makes me feel sad. I can't even articulate well why it makes me sad. Guilt that I'm not more involved in production? Feeling like my best contribution to this vision is having babies? The only capital expenses I could even think of were big expenses to the house and when we'd have babies. Maybe I'd feel better about this if I didn't feel like it just demands more from my partner.
I hate to quit things. I feel like if we quit people would whisper behind our backs "Oh, those Marquardts just couldn't hack it farming." Ryan's grandfather will have been right not to work with us. We will let down our customers who have begun to rely on us for their meats and eggs.
But are these really reasons to keep going?
Why do we farm?
I'd certainly welcome comments from any readers who stuck with me this far.