I’ve written before about the fact that we can’t afford our little farm. When we sit down and work out our budget, there just isn’t extra money from Jon’s paycheck for all the things we need. There isn’t money to buy hay and grain, there isn’t money for seeds for the garden, there isn’t money for fencing, there isn’t money for any of it.
This whole crazy adventure started when, with the help of my (step)dad and his wife, we purchased five goats we couldn’t afford. Then, thanks to crazy circumstances with a paycheck we weren’t expecting, we were able to buy a few sheep. After that, thanks to my mentor, Kathy Sullivan, who heard about what we were doing and wanted to help, we were given the opportunity to buy six more goats at a price we could afford, along with a seventh we traded sheep for, and we brought them here even though we didn’t have enough land for them, let alone the money to feed them. Our friend Alan bought us a cow who, once again, we couldn’t afford to keep. And in the midst of all that, our neighbor offered to lease us land at an incredible price, my brother started sending us monthly checks to help care for the animals even though he didn’t know we had a need, my (step)mom, dad, (step)dad and brother all helped pay for fencing and have sent money other times along the way, Kathy offered us another 1,000 feet of fencing and many things she was using on her own goat farm, my mother-in-law and husband’s aunt sent us money for farm-related things and (recently) purchased a meat grinder for us. Friends stepped up to build shelters and hay feeders, other friends stepped up to help us put up fencing, make fodder systems, butcher chickens… I could really go on and on.
And when it all boils down at the end of the day, we can’t afford our animals. And yet, we can.
Jon and I have this dream. We have a dream of him being able to work from home on the farm. We have a dream of being able to provide our children with an inheritance of land and a thriving family business, should they choose to take it. And we have a dream of caring for living things that are going to be health and sustenance to people we know and love – not just to the elite who can afford what we produce, but to those who, like us, sometimes struggle to make ends meet.
And yet, with a bank statement that threatens to bleed red every month and expenses we can’t afford to pay without the generosity of others, how can we possibly provide food for people who can’t afford $4.00 for a dozen eggs, or $5.00 for a pound of meat? With the goals we have of Jon being able to work from home some day, and of purchasing more land, and leaving our children an inheritance, how can we possibly work toward those goals, yet set our prices low enough so that everyone can afford them?
And yesterday, I feel that the answer came to me with complete clarity.
We don’t. We don’t “set our prices low enough,” or work toward our goals (at least, not in the conventional way.) Instead, we offer what we have to give. No price tags, no obligations, no set bartering system, just a trust in God, and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable and dependent on the love and generosity of those who see the value in what we produce and believe in what we’re doing.*
We give to the one who asks, and offer to the one who doesn’t and open our arms to those whose families, like our own, can’t afford “organic” or “pastured” or “grass-fed.” We raise the beef and poultry and fruits and vegetables that we’ve spent 11 years not being able to buy for our own family, and provide it for those families who can’t afford to buy it for theirs. And we trust that those who can afford it will also buy it and everything will even out in the end.
So, on our little farm, we’re changing the way we do things. We’re not charging X amount for a dozen eggs, or Y amount for a bag of tomatoes. We’re letting people pay what they can, and trusting that God will take care of our needs (and some of our wants, too!) We’re going to be asking for help more often, and letting people be a part of what we’re doing here – not because God can’t provide without our asking, but because in the asking and receiving, we’re building more than just a farm – we’re building a community in love. We’re going to trust in God and those around us and open our arms and our fields to those who want a different kind of life for their families. We’re going to freely give, as we have freely received.
It’s a risk. Or, at least, it seems so until I look back on everything we’ve done up to this point and recognize that this is only an extension of all that we’ve been doing, and all that has been done for us.
We started this adventure when we purchased five goats we couldn’t afford.
And yet, we could.
*Update: We discovered early on that it made people very uncomfortable to set their own prices, so now we set prices with the understanding and the disclosure that people can pay whatever they can.
If you’d like to learn more about our little farm, here is the website: