How my "farm moments" changed me

Guestpost by Sharon Oakley on May 27th

"I'm having a farm moment."

It's a sunny spring morning; the clothes are swaying on the clothesline. I'm freshly showered, wearing my bathrobe, sipping my coffee on the back steps, when the turkey tom decides it's time for some lovin'. Unfortunately he's decided to love on the injured hen — rather than a healthy one — whose biological drive seems to overpower her self-preservation instinct. I grab a badminton racket and run barefoot across the yard to swat the 45-pound Kentucky Bourbon Red tom off her, bathrobe flapping to reveal all. This is what I call a "farm moment." I've had a lot of them in the last three years, and know I have MANY more ahead of me.

These three acres we have are an accident. Due to high real estate prices in our area, buying a 1942 farmhouse outside of town was cheaper than renting a townhouse closer to work. When we bought the place I had no intention to farm, but I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle shortly after moving in, and it seemed criminal to have this property and not use it to produce food. Not to mention, we bought the house from the couple living next door and they actively farm 25 acres of fruits and vegetables. They adopted us immediately, and before I knew it I was discovering the joys (and sorrows) that come with living close to the land.

Since then I've had great farm moments. I've picked up chicks at the post office I can see from my driveway, nursed a wounded turkey back to health (using bovine antibiotics), seen turkey poults hatch under their mother, and so much more.

Culturally, rural life is a far cry from my middle-class suburban upbringing. I knew the kids in my neighborhood growing up, but there was always the expectation that we were to go off to college, travel, and make a life wherever our careers took us. In a farming community the opposite is true: "your people" matter. Living 3000 miles from where you were raised is suspicious, not admirable. This is where our "adoption" by our neighbors has mattered so much. Once the feed store knew that I worked with Bob and Susan on their farm, which has been in the family since the turn of the last century, they became more accepting.

At first I chaffed at this idea of community, but I am coming to accept it more and more. Having "family" to claim goes both ways — while mentioning that they're my "adopted" parents gives me credit, it's also a responsibility. If I do something untoward, it reflects on them.

This way of life still feels alien, but what constituted a farm moment three years ago no longer freaks me out. I struggle daily with the expectations of my upbringing and this accidentally-found passion for food production. Part of me desperately wants to travel; sure, I've been to China, but not Morocco. How can I be well-rounded if I stay in one place?

While we have made many changes to the house, the land and community that came with it have changed me so much more. My farm moments are little things really, but to me they are more. Each one binds me closer to this place and teaches me how to be closer to the earth and this community.

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About Sharon Oakley

Sharon is the marketing maven for a local small business, and is half of "Two Girls and a Hammer," her friend Jennifer the other half. Two Girls and a Hammer teach cheese-making, canning, and beginning poultry care classes in southeast Virginia.