After my first year of harvesting my own lovingly raised turkeys, ducks and goats in 2009, I dove enthusiastically into nose to tail eating. If it came from an animal I raised, then I was bound and determined to use every last bit of it, as the ultimate honor to the animals’ lives. I grilled giant racks of goat ribs, made pot pies with duck hearts and parsnips, rendered goat fat, peeled the scales and toenails off turkey and duck feet, made garlicky goat sausage and jerky, rice pilafs with seared goat liver, pots of spicy chili with duck gizzards. I made rich bone broth stock from all the leftover bones, then skimmed the fat off the top to use in frying my duck eggs. After the broth was strained, the softened bones went to the dogs. It was a whole new world of eating and cooking for me, an intimate process of participating in the full circle of life. I wished that everyone might experience this full and well rounded feeling.
That winter, lonely in my cold little house, I pondered meat, ethics, and business. I researched and dreamed and lamented. How did I follow my heart, become a full time farmer, and stay true to my core beliefs? And how did I do it as a newly single, and cash-poor, 30 year old woman? I had good credit, but was leery of going into more debt beyond my mortgage. I was lacking the financial business savvy and analyzation skills that I really needed to grow smartly. If I could come up with a solid business plan, showing revenue and expenses and how to invest wisely in order to have the desired return (fulltime farming) then that investment would make sense. But did I have enough farming skills to make it a profitable business? I hacked away at business plans, but it kept coming back to growth. I had to make more to sell enough to make a profit, and I didn’t have the land base to do that where I was.
I revisited some of the farming partner ideas. A sincerely decent farmer friend of mine had recently discontinued raising European Red Deer and had 40 acres of empty paddocks, fenced with 12 foot high deer fence. A gold mine! We talked a lot about various farming concepts, but as we dreamed and planned, it was impossible to avoid the fact that we’d need to be creating a business venture that made sense financially for both of us. And if it involved meat, we both realized that we’d need to raise and slaughter so many more animals, since both of us would need a salary. This just wasn’t fitting into my core belief system, and he had had a desire to get out of the business of raising meat; it was too hard emotionally for him. The other problem was that his farm was a 45 minutes from where I currently lived, and I already had experienced how hard that was to make work. I also think, in retrospect, he also knew that I wasn’t quite ready to go “whole hog,” so our talks dissipated.
I invited friends over for dinner frequently in the winter months before 2010. We would talk about farm ideas, dreams, opportunities, there was even some conspiring to get a group to buy land together commune style. Lots of dreaming. I wanted and needed action, and I felt alone in my frustrations. My set up at my little farm was fun for my friends to come visit, but they didn’t seem to get that I had to grow so I could get to my dream of being a full time farmer. I was resenting my job more and more, but what made it bearable was my friends who were also my coworkers. We continued doing our swap-luck meetings, which were serious at first, but rapidly turned into rather rowdy parties and were such great fun. Socializing was very important for me as a way of coping with the major stresses I had been through, and an escape from fixating on my farming goals ALL THE TIME. My dear friends were my support network, I loved and appreciated them, and they made me feel the same.
My old co-worker and friend Andrew, who had made my website, came over one evening that winter and we hot smoked goat ribs on the grill on a black, cold night. We drank lots of beer and stayed up way too late talking about entrepreneurial-ship. He had bought into a share of a landscaping business a couple years back, but was thinking of forging out on his own in the spring, specializing in stone work. He told me that in his dream of dreams, he’d like to buy 10 acres up north and start a vegetable CSA. I’d finally connected with a friend I could talk to about business and farm dreams, and our friendship was reborn.