You see, dear friend, I’m the world’s biggest fan of farming. And I want more than anything for folks who want to be farmers to be successful and to actually make good money. But that means you have to want it. You have to want it more than anything else.Joel Salatin, Your Successful Farm Business
Happy birthday to Mr. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, who turns 66 on February 24th!
Joel has been an inspiration to us here on the homestead. Christine first came across Joel via the documentary Food, Inc. as part of a food ethics course in college. I was introduced to Joel through another documentary, American Meat, that was put on by a park district I worked for years ago. We were fortunate enough to meet and speak with him at The Homestead Festival in 2022.
Joel has been a regular on my reading list for years now as well, starting with his wonderful book, Folks, this Ain’t Normal. But it is something he says in another book of his that is what I want to focus on today.
In Your Successful Farm Business, Joel dedicates an entire chapter to living frugally. Why living frugally? Because Joel didn’t start out as a successful farmer. He didn’t inherit a fortune and pristine land at an early age. He worked, and sacrificed, and lived his own truth to build his success. That takes discipline and dedication, on a level not everyone is prepared to put into building their idyllic farm dreams. Joel’s works are an amazing collection of his cheerleading for the farmer, but he’s genuinely open and honest about the hard work that reaching success requires. You have to want it. Want it with your eyes wide open to all that entails. Want it in order to succeed.
Just like in farming, you really have to want it in order to succeed in homesteading.
And to want it, you’ve got to love it.
That’s the kind of romance Christine mentioned in last week’s blog. A love of the earth and in nature’s bounty. A love of the effort and work that goes into bringing new and beautiful life from the soil. A love of the perfection of natural systems, and an understanding that the wasteful creations of man just cannot compete with the simplicity of natural perfection (what John Muir aptly observed as, “life at work everywhere, obliterating all memory of the confusion of man”).
Plus, no matter your experience you must possess a love of learning. A love of knowledge, both old and new. A love of trial and error (and sometimes error and error and error and error before a success). A love that allows you to always be open to new ideas and information, while balancing the new with the tried and true old ways that more closely resemble the perfect balance of natural processes.
And you have to know yourself. And be true to yourself. And love yourself. You have to love yourself as a farmer or homesteader. You have to want it just as Joel and his wife wanted it for all the long years when they began their farm journey. You have to love it to work at it. You have to love it enough to dedicate your time to it everyday. You have to love it enough to sacrifice your want of other things such as material possessions, frequent travel, and even leisurely pursuits.
That last note reminds me of a time just a few years ago when I had just built a play house for my kids. Upon seeing the finished house, a friend of mine, also very busy with two young kids of his own, asked me, “Where do you find the time?”
I was honest with him.
I replied, “I say no a lot.”
That too is the kind of love I’m talking about. I decided long ago to dedicate myself to being the best dad I could be. That meant foregoing many aspects of the life I led prior to having children. But none of the things I ever gave up gave me more satisfaction than the feeling imparted by having two children who know they are loved and cared for like the center of my universe that they are.
That’s the same type of love I bring to our marriage as well. Just as to my children I want to be the best dad I can be, to Christine I want to be the best husband I can be. We both knew when we tied the knot that there wasn’t going to be any talk of divorce. We were in this for the long haul, building a strong and loving blended family. Knowing that Christine and I are of the same mindset when it comes to building our homestead and our dreams is just an added bonus!
That’s the love you have to bring to homesteading in order to succeed.
Homesteading is the beauty of verdant gardens, fluffy chickens, and beautiful sunsets that you see in our photos. But it is also the hardship of long days, hard work, disheartening failures, and daily sacrifices in building our dreams.
You have to want it. And to want it, you’ve got to love it.
Homesteading is absolutely the life we want to live. This is the way.
We hope you find some inspiration in today’s post, just as we found ours through Joel Salatin.