In 1810, 84% of folks in the USA were farmers
Today one American farmer feeds 165 people. Our country has a cheap food policy and the grower, whoever raises your food gets about 16 cents from every dollar spent on whatever a farm produces. Roughly 2% of our national population are farmers, ranchers. Like many things, bigger happened to squeeze out the family farm way of life.
Consolidation, volume production because the food prices do not keep pace with inflation, and the higher cost of farming made the lifestyle not so economically attractive. Most would agree the work ethic learned on a farm is a valuable lesson. But few are so positive that breaking even is considered a good year and just being excited to get to farm again come spring just won’t cut it.
So if eight out of ten people live in the city, if small rural populations are shrinking, what causes the longing for living off grid, for starting a small farm?
Ask yourself if you live in an urban center what you don’t like about your lifestyle. Too much commuting or time wasted trying to get from “A” to “B”. Fear of personal safety because the nightly news has some pretty gruesome stuff flashed before the audience tuning in to learn “that’s the way it is” for another day. Noise, high cost of housing, fast paced living that robs personal satisfaction and just lacking the freedom to be your own boss.
But being a farmer, living off the land is no picnic.
Work around the clock, hard labor and set backs due to the weather, poor markets or your own personal health. Physical labor helps you get in shape, sleep better nights when you shut off the lamp on the nightstand. But worry about staying on that family farm can cause nightmares. Farming can be a lot like gambling when you blow on the dice and hope for snake eyes or whatever is needed to come out on top to win the wager. More on living off grid.
Living off grid… is power that expensive or is the idea of not being plugged into a utility for juice part of the independence? Is burning a renewable natural resource like wood from your own land, cut and gathered and split, stacked to heat your home part of the attraction? To get away on dependency on foreign oil or natural gas? We’ve blogged about heating your Maine home with wood before and know the merits of being a son of a birch. Could you build your own cabin to live off the land?
Is living off grid a bit of a knee jerk over reaction to the pressure cooker of city living?
Is the romance of working the land, building your own home, the out buildings to go around the farmstead like a drug? Something to dream about to help fulfill the empty spot in a life that is lived but not rich or rewarding or natural. Being resourceful, learning new skills that have been untapped because you specialize in one and only one thing. And hire out pretty much everything else that depends on the credit card or write a check.
Simpler living means removing the money needed to keep it complicated. When it is a personal choice to step back, buy the Maine land and plan you cutting ties with the city to make the leap to work the dirt is not as scary because it is self inflicted. When the Great Depression caused drought, a dust bowl where nothing grew and the locals packed up to move away with little hope in their sails, the need to create a living besides farming meant industrial jobs, learning a trade besides the managing acreage.
How much land do you need to start a Maine farm?
Once fertile acre of Caribou loan will grow 32,000 pounds of food. That’s a square just shy of 208′ x 208′ and Maine land is cheap. Small rural Maine is the 4th lowest for crime statistics. Your fun is low or no cost when the outdoors with fresh air, clean water and missing the wall to wall sea of unknown faces city dwellers maneuver around daily. Would it be a shock to the system? Do you easily make the transition to small country living without much thought when it is your kids welfare that gets considered as the most important goal in your life? What’s important does change when you start a family and start to study where you can do it best for your children.
New solar lightning, advances in batteries, LED lighting that uses less energy make living off grid more feasible. Wind generators have popped up around the landscape even here in small rural Maine. By living off grid do you mean unplowed roads and stuck way up in the woods far from town? Is there a happy medium of being on a dead end road not so far from town conveniences without all the added work of making a road, maintaining it by yourself. Neighbors are not bad but keeping them at a distance helps the fondness. Don’t fence me in was not just a Western notion. Too many people too tightly jammed together is a recipe for tension, emotions to boil over and it is all due to your personal space being invaded. Feeling you have no space of your own if you share it with every Tom, Dick and Harry.
Thought more than once about easing into farming in Maine?
Feeding yourself first and just keep your expenses low to the ground. Life is more enjoyable when you are not chasing the dollar to keep the wolf from your door. Feeling satisfied with personal success raising farm field to family table is also healthy for your body. In a day and age when cancer and other diseases are prevalent, you have to wonder about the toll stress, what we eat that should not be put down the gullet causes to the body we were given to care for the best we can. Do you feel you treat yourself the healthiest way possible? Or is it give me something to forget how unhappy or empty you are? That’s medicate the symptoms but not tackling the root of the problem.
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MOOERS REALTY 69 North Street Houlton Maine 04730 USA