Hard Work on Green Acres

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My husband and I used to share the dream of having a little land to farm someday. We imagined a simpler life devoid of treacherous commutes and long hours at the office or lab. Instead, we dreamed of long days spent outside tenderly nurturing our crops as they grew into a bountiful harvest. Many of our peers held the same dream of a creating a commune where all would work together to nurture our farm and as the farm nurtured us.

We were excited when two friends bought significant acreage in the Capay Valley to start their own organic farm. We quickly volunteered to visit the farm and help out, excited to get a glimpse of what farming actually entails.

On our first Saturday morning on the farm this March, my husband and I woke up at 6:30 am and looked at each other, bleary eyed. We weren't springing out of bed with glee to go feel the earth between our fingers. But still, we got up, and our hosts, glancing at the clock, mentioned how nice it had felt to sleep in that morning.

The task that weekend was building a fence, without which anything they planted would be eaten overnight. As we pounded fence posts into the ground for hours, our ears ringing, we started to contemplate all the work that went into a farm besides planting and harvesting, such as weeding, the building of infrastructure, and so many unknowns. By lunch, we decided that our dream wasn't necessarily to have a full farm. Maybe a large garden or small urban homestead would do.

Last month, after a day following a tractor around to harvest 1,700 pounds of potatoes, I vowed to never waste a potato as long as I live. We've learned to appreciate the value of our food and consider the vast amount of labor that takes it from seed to table.


Now when anyone mentions a farm commune, we bring up the back-breaking labor and long hot hours in the sun. While many of our generation, like our friends, go into farming with their eyes open, others romanticize the idea. As for my husband and I, we'll be sleeping in this weekend before wandering out to our backyard garden.

With a Perspective, I'm Becky Mackelprang.

Becky Mackelprang is a PhD candidate inn plant biology at UC Berkeley.