Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Rural Living v. Farming

I enjoy living in a rural area. I like the meadows, the mountains, the forests, the trees, the privacy.

There are deer to watch as they bound down the hillside toward the gully, racoons skittering across the driveway at dusk, an occasional bear on the back porch, squirrels everywhere, birdsong filling the skies with a lovely cacophony of sound, turkeys strutting and chasing bugs - all manner of wildlife to watch and enjoy.

But farming? Farming is a different animal. It's not "rural living." Farming is work. Farming is income. Farming is expensive.

I seriously doubt most people know what goes into that hamburger they grab at the fast food restaurant. So, I am going to tell you.

First, the farmer has to have property. Generally, these days, this is generational land, handed down from parent to child, because most people can't afford to buy the acreage necessary to farm. There are small farms of about 25 acres, perhaps, and small farms can feed a community. They can't feed a nation.

Our farm is not a big farm, but neither is it a small farm. It is a small farm compared to the massive farms out west, but for this area, it's not small.

So that's the first requirement. Land. Land means upkeep, it means real estate taxes, it means physical labor. It takes machinery to keep it up. That means large expensive purchases for things like a tractor, a hay cutter, a tedding machine for the hay, a hay rake, a baler, and a trailer. That's the least you'd need, really, if you are going to raise cattle.

Then you need a place to store the machinery. If you're making hay, you need a place to store the hay.

Then you need to keep the machinery up and running. That requires gas, oil, fluids of all kinds, and then repair parts because everything breaks down, every summer. So you need someone to write the checks and do the bookkeeping (that would be me, in our case).

Next, one must buy cattle. That's an outright purchase of a cow or 50, and then you bring them home and turn them loose on the land. You have to build fence to keep them in. You have to tag them, give them minerals, make sure they have water, rotate their grazing pasture, watch them when they give birth to ensure the calves come out ok. The cows need certain shots required by law for various diseases. You have to keep the flies off of them, chase away the coyotes, shoo away the vultures.

Then you rent a truck and haul the calves to the market when they're grown. If you're lucky, in about three years' time you've recouped the initial cost of the cow and if she lives a while, the rest could be called profit - minus all the constant upkeep, of course.

So next time you think about the price of beef in the grocery store, remember that a whole lot of effort goes into ensuring that hamburger is in the meat freezer. It doesn't just come from the back of the store.

It comes from us. To be precise, it comes from my husband, who works hard and has shed sweat and blood over those animals.


  1. We have 25 acres and raise beef cows. It does give us a tax write off, but in all the years we have been doing this (20) we have made a small profit only a couple of times. It is hard work. Sometimes there are vet bills or mechanic bills, etc... Plus, we both worked full time jobs. I think the majority of people have no idea how much work goes into the food that magically appears at their grocery store.

  2. Great post--there is so much that goes into farming!

  3. Thanks for explaining all that. I don't blame the growers. I blame that it is the corporations that own the food industry that hike up the prices. I do believe in fair labor prices and like you said, there is lot that goes into it.

  4. This my friend, is a great post. We buy our grass-fed beef from a young couple in NE New Mexico. I take to the wife when she delivers our meat...they are good people. She works hard to develop their on-line business and FarmersMarket stands. It sounds like a difficult life but they love it, Nd it seems like y'all do too.


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