“I would love to have a big old bank barn, an old farmhouse with some character would be great, even if it needs work, something over 50 acres, fairly flat, a nice rural school without the big city crime and bad influences for my kids, neighbors who are rooted in farming, who help each other out and treat the land, the buildings and each other with respect.” —Randy of rural Pennsylvania
“Farming is about the people you touch, and that touch you. It’s been very rare that I’ve ever had a bad experience with a ‘true’ farmer. I want my kids growing up with those kinds of people as mentors, not the dope smokers that fill these dying little towns.”
All of his adult life, 32-year-old Randy has been working toward the goal of owning a farm. He and his wife bought 32 acres and built their house, hoping to later sell that land and buy his old family farm back with whatever profit they could gain, though it now seems a near impossibility.
“That home place is just going to be a wound that will never heal … it’s been 11 years, and never, never is there a day it’s not on my mind.”
While on his newly-purchased acreage, Randy decided to farm it.
“Wrong again. We were threatened by the small boro here that farming is not permitted. We own the land on the very edge of the boro, so we have 140 head of cattle on one side of us and 325 houses on the other. I’m not even allowed to plant corn.
“This spring they have started to attack me because my garden is over 1 acre. Apparently they trespassed on to my land and measured it, so this will mean time in court. Keeping the Deutz here is a problem as well.”
Randy tells me that my column, speaking of my father who left a good-paying job to become a full-time farmer, and more importantly, a full-time father, spoke volumes to him. He and his wife have two young daughters, and he is with them most of the time, a gift he values deeply.
“My wife and I take our little girls out and work in our ‘illegal’ garden and enjoy growing our own food.”
This past October, while his wife worked a 3-10 p.m. pharmacy shift, Randy took their then 2-year-old, Lily, along to a farm auction to buy a Lely Roterra tiller, perfect for tilling organics. It was a long drive on a chilly day, but Toddler Tunes and time with daddy helped keep Lily content.
She made friends with girls running a 4-H table, ran through the dairy barn, splashed through the mud.
“This is one of the things having a farm is about … having that time with her. She had warmed up to that farm, she would correct others to ‘put your hood up!’ and rode on my shoulders while wearing her kitty rain boots and having some father-daughter time.”
Randy’s wife, Jill, a Duquesne University graduate with a Ph.D. in pharmacy, had no experience with farm life, and is amazed that, when Randy visits a farm or strikes a deal on equipment with someone, he is invited back to their farm for a visit. She is stunned by that kind of community affect of all farmers.
Randy once sold a disk to a man in Salem, Ohio, after running an ad in Farm and Dairy. Randy loaded the disk, accepted the man’s check. Jill asked why Randy trusted him enough to take a check.
“He didn’t drive all this way to steal a $550 machine, and his word is good. Besides, he just moved here to be near his wife’s family from Wisconsin and had to leave his disk,” Randy explained.
Speaking of his dream farm, Randy said he and his wife would love to connect with a farm couple who feel ready to part with it, if they don’t have family interested in carrying it on, one they could buy for a fair price before it is auctioned off in to lots.
“I would love an heirloom farm, I would love to see it have the century farm label in time. I want my people to still be tilling the land 100 years from now. I would love to be in a place where the city sprawl won’t come for a long time. We would write into the deed covenants that would protect the land, keeping it as a farm. I can’t go buy a farm at auction, because we have to sell what we have first, and most that go that route get sliced up in to lots.
“I want my children raised on a farm. They need to learn to shovel manure, see animals born and die, learn to fix things, that everything isn’t to be thrown away. I just bought a 1950-something Farmall Super C to cultivate my organic corn … that old tractor still looks and runs good and it’s probably older than my mom!
“There is no modern machine that can do what it can do … it’s old and slow, but that’s how it gets done. Those are important lessons in life … I want my kids brought up away from the evil that seems to lurk in the big cities.”
Randy says he would definitely stay with organic farming.
“I don’t take it to the extreme some do, but I won’t be putting chemicals on the fields either. God intended things to work a certain way, and I hope to be farming with that intent for a lifetime.”