The struggle of the family farm has been hard-fought. The days of local farms, run by local families are all but a thing of the past. Growing up in a farm family, I have fond memories of farmers helping each other out in times of need. I can remember when my grandfather suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized just as harvest season was beginning. Without a thought, the other local farmers rallied and before grandpa was home, the crops were harvested and put in storage. That kind of cooperation among neighbors is inspiring. What a reward it must have been for those that had the opportunity to help a neighbor in need. And our crop didn’t go to waste!
So, why has the family farm reached the edge of extinction? There are plenty of theories, but I’d rather discuss solutions.
Another common desire of folks is to own some land; a little piece of God’s green earth to exercise their body and mind. These people may have different ideas of what to do with the land, but frequently it is imagined to be a homestead with some elbow room and sovereignty. It’s fun for a few years, but quickly the maintenance of the property becomes more than desired. Weekends and holidays are consumed by mowing, cleaning, fence mending, tree trimming, and other tasks that fill the days of large property owners. For a few years of our lives, we have time for this. However, much of our early adult life is consumed by growing a family. Once the kids are gone, travel might be fun. Maybe there’s a patch of your life when you enjoy tending to the property (I like to call it man-sport), but pretty soon your spouse, doctor, or body starts telling you to knock it off. Then what? Condo life? Probably not.
Enter the farmmunity.
A decade or so ago, I was pondering this plight of the family farm and bending my mind to find a solution. I imagined a family farm at the center of a piece of property, the boundary of which would be made up of several homes. These homes would have use of the farm, be able to buy produce from the farm, and enjoy the open shared-space big backyard. Their home sites would be maintained by the farm hands and that supplemental income would make the family farm viable again. A marriage made in… Grayson? It just seems like it could work.
Well, as usual, I’m not the first one to come up with that idea. It turns out that several others have had the same or similar ideas. How they originated may differ, but ultimately they’ve demonstrated that I’m not crazy! It seems other people actually think the idea is a good one. And the success of these “agri-hoods” has been well documented. There are many of these communities around the country that are variations on this theme of farm meets neighborhood. And it’s really working!
So, with regard to original ideas, it’s back to the drawing board. In the meantime, we have some good proof-of-concept examples from which to draw inspiration and confidence, knowing that we’re on the right path.