This has been an interesting few weeks to say the least. I’m not the only man to have to admit this but I typically learn lessons very thoroughly but take the long way to discovery. Pain and heartache have taught me many things like the epiphany “stupid is suppose to hurt” to the hard earned “think before you speak”. Both of which I will gladly discuss with any young man willing to listen to a front porch sermon of mine. One of the things I now feel I know well it that there is real Joy in working together with your family. This is the bread and butter of authentic family farms. Not the oversimplified version of performing tasks with your children, that is not what I’m talking about. Every family does that right? And I am also not talking about happiness. Anyone who has held the other end of a nail while teaching a 9 year old boy to swing a hammer can attest that laboring with your children isn’t always a bowl of cherries. I want to a few moments to delineate the difference between joy and happiness and work and labor and just why family farms may be one of the last bastions of hope for us to rekindle this notion.
In a previous version of me being a husband and father I had swallowed the normative expectation for my young life. Get a good job, buy a house, take out a loan for a SUV (but hold out for a good interest rate), use credit cards to build you credit score, get a dog, have kids, watch evening sit-coms, check facebook. Is the image of my mid twenties coming into focus? It may be overly simplified but by all accounts a relatively normal and acceptable life that my elders from the depression would love to have. All chocked full of the gooey excesses and security that my family deserves. By the time I was 30 I was working all the overtime shifts i could get my hands on and passing by my wife and kids like the accessories I had made them into. They fit just so into the way I saw the world and in my egocentric vision of the world I loved them the best way I knew how. Thank God for the way I was made with a little bit of sand in my britches that leaves me very unsettled even when all is going the way I hoped it would. Thinking to myself “If this is the best that life gets, then I’m not interested in this at all” How does a 30 ish man change himself enough to have the courage to actually lead his family somewhere that has meaning and value? After all I lead us to this point and it is my highest calling to lead this family with love and devotion.
Like a ton of bricks, what has taken almost 7 years of warming up to, truth slammed down on me this week. Here is the truth that now we are tasked with acting upon; I am not the center of the universe and changing from my egocentric default setting takes daily un sexy work for me to be different. So what does his have to do with farming and family farms? I’m so glad you asked. Even when I didn’t know how to completely flesh out the truth my heart was open to it and the beginning of change has been brewing in me for years now. The disillusioned young man in his early 30’s decided to change his family’s path but the path wasn’t farming. The path was changed by letting my devoted wife and children in on shaping my dream. That is the bold step but also the unifying keystone to living a life on a mission as a family. Not only is this life not all about me but the way I live this life is not all about me. Our family landed in farming because I abandoned the notion that my dream was my own and instead began asking what is our dream. The answers we simple and not overly involved. They were things like “we want to be together” and “we want adventure” and “we want to be healthy”. Family farms are practice grounds for all of us working together, while laboring, to find pure joy even when happiness eludes us. One of the reasons you and your family should care about family farms is because they are a natural place where this counter cultural thinking breeds. This is what you may have had a hard time vocalizing but know is there when you say things like “I just love your lifestyle” or “what a blessing that your kids get to grow up on a farm”. I think if we drill down enough through those emotions the bedrock there is an acknowledgement of the difference between a farm and a family farm. I pray this has found you in a place where change is possible for you if you’re open to it to begin the conversation of letting your family shape your dream.
There is so much more in this discussion but you will have to buy my book to continue unpacking these ideas with me.