When we were looking to start a small farm, we would regularly ask merchants at market if they had a full-time job outside of what they were doing for farmers market. Although I hate the term, these full time jobs were often referred to as ‘jobby-jobs’. The term wasn’t used in an entirely positive manner.
I got the sense that there were the farmers that had made it and were doing very well for themselves by farming. These folks hired market managers and harvesters. They tended to have larger operations and made a reasonable income.
Then there were some farmers who either had a real job (jobby-job), or who had part time work in off seasons to support their farming habits. There were a couple of reasons for the farmers to have outside work, one was that their standard of living was such that there was no way a farm would ever produce that kind of money. The other reason for outside employment was simply to make ends meet in order to not starve because the farm just wasn’t making enough money to feed the family.
And of course there were those in between. There were the farmers who made enough to barely support themselves, but they didn’t really have outside employment.
There was a sort of stigma associated with having outside employment. It meant you hadn’t made it yet. It meant that you had to rely on the outside economy rather than being able to really provide for yourself. It was a failure in a sense. Of course it depends on your real goal, but in talking to people, there was a sense of failure if they had an outside job and a feeling of success a nog those that didn’t.
After working in an part-time adjunct teaching position for two years while we got our farm started, I applied for and was offered a full-time tenure track position. While I am extremely excited about the position and I will be doing something that I really enjoy with people I like working with, I somehow feel like I’ve failed. I wanted to be one of the successful farmers. Sure, I was a long way from that before I took the full time job. And of course I plan on continuing the farm, but I took a jobby-job.
I think part of my reluctance with this job is that it is stable and reputable. My mother raised me better than this! I’m not supposed to take the steady job because it is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to follow my passions. Of course the job I took is right in line with my passions, but I still feel a bit off because it is far more of a mainstream path than I thought I would take.
So now we are looking to downsize the farm a bit. We will still be producing vegetables and some animal products. We are still working to establish fruit crops. In fact, I’m not sure what we are giving up to downsize our farm, but something will have to go. We will likely downsize our sheep flock, and we probably won’t focus so heavily on having as many vegetables throughout the season, but otherwise, I’m hoping to continue with what we are doing in large part.
Now I’m looking toward retirement when I can get rid of the jobby-job and really become a full time farmer.