The Pros and Cons of Selling the Farm

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by brenda on August 2, 2013

One of our Barred Rock pullets. I called our first Barred Rock hen “Jackie O” because I thought she was dressed in such a nice outfit. :)

I wrote yesterday about our decision to sell the farm. You were all so supportive and caring! I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking of how we might be able to make it work. Some of you mentioned using a crowd funding site to gain funds to make the farm work out. I researched that and even set up an account to see what it was all about. And I was struggling, thinking through, “but what is best for our family? What do we want?” My husband and I prayed about it all this morning, and we know that God is going to guide us…

There are pros and cons to selling the farm. We do LOVE this way of life and grieve the thought of losing it. But at the same time, there are some good reasons to sell.

 

The Pros of Selling Our Farm

  1. More time together as a family.  Since my husband has to work, he will have a long commute. When he comes home and has to work the farm, he barely gets any time with us. Our kids feel like we’re “always busy” and constantly have work to do around here. It’s the truth. My husband and I feel it, too.
  2. Less debt. I think #1 and #2 are our main priorities here. Debt weighs heavily on us. We wish we could’ve started farming without debt. As I thought through all of our project ideas & what we might set up a crowd funding campaign for, I kept coming back to this: it will take more time away from our family, and, we’ll still have the debt. 
  3. Less of a need to “branch out” and an ability to simplify. People mentioned the idea of diversifying our farm and “branching out” to make an income. I feel like we’ve given that a really good shot. Our farm is pretty diversified: we sell chicken, eggs, pork, turkey, duck, goose, beef and raw milk. We have a farm store that is stocked with organic goods (I buy food by the case & mark up the price and sell it in our store). We’ve purchased cases of raw honey from a local apiary at a wholesale price and we marked them up & resold many, many gallon jars of honey. I’ve run an organic grocery delivery business, where I picked up farm-fresh veggies from other farms and sold them, along with our meats to people. We’ve sold at 2 farmers markets this summer, and applied for many more. We have taken in challenging kids for the day and helped them work out their anger while doing some farm work, to give their parents a break and to make a little income. We set up a program for homeschooling kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder (kids who were adopted & have challenging behaviors) and advertised it at several local counseling offices. I signed up to sell essential oils and started selling them here. We bought $2,000 worth of neurofeedback equipment with the hope of doing neurofeedback sessions on our own children and on other people (under the authority of a counselor/doctor we know). We could still do that, but we don’t have a nice, quiet office set up–or time. We considered spending around $4,000 for me to take a 1 year Nutrition Therapy program, so that I could do nutrition consultations and recommend supplements. It would go perfectly with the neurofeedback piece–but again, we didn’t have the time or extra funds. I started this website when we bought the farm, for 2 reasons, first to write about our experiences and second, in hope of selling ebooks to make an income. It worked–some months have been great. And some months I’ve made just an “ok” income for the amount of work I put in. I LOVE writing, but I really struggle with turning my blog into a business that I feel like I need to invest a certain amount of hours into. I don’t want to write because I have to do it as a business. I hate staring at a blank screen, thinking “I must come up with content!”. I want to write because I get the gut feeling that I HAVE to get this thought out there or I’m going to explode….That’s how I operate. :) I don’t want to be a working mom. I know many moms have to work, and I appreciate that they’re doing what they need to do for their family. This isn’t meant to be a judgement on them. If my husband works full time and we don’t have so much debt, I don’t have to work, and I can teach my children. I feel very blessed in that regard. I was created to be a teacher, and I know it without a doubt. I cannot imagine handing their education over to someone else, because I LOVE teaching them and I LOVE being in their lives so much. This last year they did some school on the computer so that I could work more, to make more income–and I felt like we all suffered. I want to be teaching them, and they want me to be teaching them. With all of the “branching out,” I don’t see how it is possible. There are only so many hours in a day. If we try to do *everything* we will be sacrificing something, and it won’t be done well.
  4. More time for hospitality. I LOVE cooking meals for other people. We live so far out from many people we know, and we simply don’t have time to have people over. I think, besides teaching, hospitality is a gift that God has given me. In this home & on this farm, I have felt stifled in that area.
  5. More time to be in other people’s lives. Our church has events we call “productive fellowship.” It’s simply this: someone has a project to be done, and they invite the church to join in. They might provide lunch & everyone works together to accomplish their project. We’ve had productive fellowships here at our farm–several men from our church helped us turn a portion of our barn into a chicken coop (when we realized the kids’ old plastic playhouse wasn’t enough to house our chickens!) :) . And many of those same men, and others, came to our house to remodel our family room into 2 bedrooms–1 of which has an outside entrance & is now our “Farm Store.” We have been SO blessed by those productive fellowships. When we see the announcements come out & the opportunities to bless others like that, we want to be at every one! But there are the animals….and so many projects here–so many that seem like they will never, ever get done. If we didn’t have so much work, we could participate in more of those productive fellowship opportunities and bless others like they have blessed us.
  6. More time to get involved in other farmer’s lives. For a long time, I have had a desire to capture other farmers on video, sharing their experiences of how hard it is to make it….and what has been successful, so that other small farmers can learn from their experience….Maybe a podcast, too….I think that if we aren’t living on our own farm, I might actually be able to do something like that. We will be able to support other farmers, too. With less debt and more income, we will be regular customers and can help another farmer get by.
  7. A chance to adopt again. We have adopted 2 out of 4 of our kids, and we have a heart for orphans. At one time, we took in a sibling group as foster kids, and hoped to adopt them. After 14 months with us, they went back to their birth mom. After 3 months with her, they went back into the foster care system–to another foster home. We found out last week that a committee was choosing a family for them & they will be getting adopted–by someone else. :( We miss those children, a lot. I know that a family of 4 kids seems like a lot to some of you–but my heart aches for the noises & messes & cuddles of more. :) We are afraid to go through the foster care system (which is free) again, because of our experience (and so many other experiences like ours that we’ve heard of). We would love to adopt an infant again, but it is expensive–very expensive. When we adopted our daughter as an infant from the state of Georgia, it cost us $30,000. In our view of things, farming (and even working a job and farming, and pouring all of our income into the farm) will never provide enough money for us to be able to adopt. Our youngest is turning 6 next week, and she begs for a baby sister, almost daily. (She really, really misses the younger sisters that she had for 14 months). We all hope to add to our family through adoption again, and we feel like it is more of a possibility if we have less debt.
  8. More space in the house. This house isn’t very big, for a big family…I hoped that someday we could add on, but it does not seem financially feasible. Our stuff feels so crowded here, and I have purged a lot of stuff since we moved here (we moved here from a lot bigger home). I look forward to a little bit more space in the house–maybe a space for our homeschool stuff (besides in the kids’ bedrooms), and a bigger hall closet for linens, cleaning supplies, medicines, etc. (our hall closet is super duper tiny). I know this is fickle–and there are so many farmers who live in tiny farm houses, and they make it work. And people in other countries live in tiny grass huts or mud huts, etc….But I like to be really honest, so there it is–I am hopeful that our next house will have a little square footage. That, alone, gives me a glimpse of hope in this whole situation. Ok, so I lose my free-range geese–but maybe I get a bigger closet? :)

There are con’s, too, as I mentioned yesterday…

The Cons of Selling the Farm

  1. We won’t be able to produce really awesome food for our family and others. We really feel like we make a difference in the world, when we raise good food that nourishes people!
  2. We won’t get to experience the joys of life in the country. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I love finding a mama chicken with several chicks behind her. I love seeing deer out my kitchen window. It was even cool to see a coyote outside of our kitchen window! I love the sounds–there are trees outside of our dining room window, and this summer, several birds have been living in those trees. I hear turkeys outside of our bedroom window, too. We see huge hawks flying overhead and the kids scream “hawk!” and they want to run around outside to protect our chickens. Who else has barn cats that try to get into the house when the door is left open? Our kids yell “cat alert, cat alert!” and they all run to capture the cat and put it outside again. We hear mooing, and squawking, and peeping, and chickens pecking at the slider door and looking at us sideways like “what are you doing in there?” Last night I heard an owl, when I was trying to fall asleep. I love that.
  3. We will lose the ability to dream BIG about what to do with our property someday. We think of ideas all of the time–maybe we’ll build camping sites, or cabins, or a big retreat facility. Maybe we’ll build a boarding school for kids with anger issues, who need special treatment (we’d hire staff, of course, but wouldn’t a farm setting be great for kids who have hard hearts & need healing?). Maybe we’ll put in a natural swim hole and people can come swimming here. Maybe we’ll board dogs for people. Maybe we’ll add on to our house, build a second story (with a great view!) and turn our house into a bed & breakfast. Maybe we’ll breed fancy breeds of chickens and sell them to urban homesteaders. Maybe we’ll build coops for people–and teach classes about backyard chickens. Maybe we’ll run a CSA that includes meat, and eggs, and honey. Maybe we’ll create a ministry and a website, similar to World Vision, and we grow food, people donate $, and we raise the food for people in need…or families who take in orphans….Maybe we’ll add fish to our 3 ponds, and create a spot for kids to come fishing. Maybe we’ll expand our orchard (14 fruit trees) and in a few years we’ll have a “u-pick” orchard. And maybe we can add rows & rows of berries for u-pick, also…Maybe we’ll rent a commercial kitchen and cook our food & sell it as cooked food. Maybe we’ll run a salad bar at the farmer’s market, where people can make salads with our farm fresh goods. We have thought of SO many ideas…….
  4. Our kids won’t have property to “explore” and trees to climb. We send our boys out with walkie talkies, and they go for hikes and find all kinds of things. When crabapples are in season, they bring buckets full of crab apples up to the house. In the spring, they pick me huge bouquets of daffodils that grow down in our field! They have created rock lined pathways through the trees. They’ve spent hours and hours out there. They’ve found lizards, and frogs, and snakes, and a chipmunk, and mice. They’ve made forts, and “The Eagle’s Nest,” their spy headquarters, out in the tall grass, etc. We’ve battled grass allergies and learned the tricks (eucalyptus in a diffuser is amazing!). The kids have had a blast here. I wonder if they’ll enjoy our next back yard?
  5. We lose the ability for our children to live near us, on the same property, someday. I know it’s a silly vision–they’ll be adults, and they can move wherever they want to. Our second-born (who is 10) has said, ever since he was 6, that God was calling him to be a missionary pilot & he’s probably going to Africa–so he probably won’t be living on the farm. We can’t wait to see how God uses him! Our third son wants to be a nurse and have horses. Our daughter wants to grow up & be a dance teacher and a mommy. Our oldest has always said that he wants to live right by us. Several times, he’s very seriously, said he was “working on his house” in our backyard–his future house. He said that he thought he could afford a door, but not much else, so maybe he would just dig a hole in the ground and put a door on top, and that would be his house. :) He wants to be an inventor and a scientist. He’s thinking of maybe getting a degree in electrical engineering (like my husband has), or maybe chemical engineering. And maybe he’d live by us….And maybe our 3rd son, too, with his horses–maybe, just maybe, we could add another house or 2 here, and they’d be close….(but notice, none of them say that they want to be farmers…They do want land, for horses, and a border collie, etc., but they don’t want to farm)…
  6. We lose control over what happens to this beautiful piece of land. I can just see, someday, a neighborhood built on this property–with the great view, the convenience to the highway, etc…..And it makes me cringe. Thankfully, it can’t be subdivided like that right now (it’s got 3 tax lots, that’s it), but who knows what the future holds. I hate the thought of it being turned into more houses…
  7. We lose a piece of our identity. We’re the Scotts, the chicken farmers from Molalla. We even have a “chicken farmer” skit that we’ve done at a couple of camps, where my husband sounded like Mr. Hainey from Green Acres. Who are we, if not the chicken farmers from Molalla?
  8. We may be leaving a way of life that we will always long for. I don’t know. Will we be content with less space and no free-ranging geese (I hate goose poop outside my front door, but I do LOVE free-ranging geese!)? Will we always look back and regret the move, or will we be ok with our new way of life?
  9. We lose the ability to provide everything for our family if the world goes crazy. I used to think that we needed land, just in case something went terribly wrong in the world & we needed to provide for ourselves. We have been able to make entire meals for our family, off of our farm products alone. It feels awesome to serve up a plate full of our own farm-fresh goodness. And wouldn’t it be cool to build an emergency shelter, stocked with home-canned goods, and to be prepared? Yeah, it would….But I keep thinking–if the world turns upside down, and we still have debt on our farm, they’re going to take our farm…Maybe even if we owned it outright, but there is more of a chance of losing everything if we have debt. And I don’t think we should live in fear. Yes, we should be wise–keep some foods and supplies on hand, “just in case,” etc., but I don’t think we should be living afraid, as if Y2K is around the corner again. :)
  10. Another small farm will be closing down, while Big Ag continues to thrive. This is no small thing. We aren’t doing this lightly or without considering the cost. If all of the small farms, one by one, close down, we will only have meat that’s been fed garbage and raised without Vitamin D from the sun (unless we are fortunate enough to grow our own). And just as the Lorax complained about the trees being chopped down, I will be the one making noise about farms…Small, diversified farms are that important to me. But we have to make a decision for our family. How long do we keep trying at this? Until we can’t pay the bills anymore and we lose our farm? Well that wouldn’t be very wise, would it? At least we can sell while we’re ahead, buy a home with less debt, and still be activists who speak for the farms–and support the farms–and spend the majority of our household income on farm-fresh food.

So there you go….I just let it all out–what we’re struggling with, and what we’re working though. Right now we’re both feeling like we’re supposed to move. There is grief, but there is peace, too. We’re trusting that God has something in store for us, in the next location, however big the lot may be…

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  • Shawna

    I liked this post until I got to the cons. We’re in the process of coming up with a plan move from our farm. Not sure if we’ll sell it or rent it yet. It’s definitely bittersweet.

  • Shawna

    I liked this post until I got to the cons. We’re in the process of coming up with a plan move from our farm. Not sure if we’ll sell it or rent it yet. It’s definitely bittersweet.

  • Georgia Brinkley

    Thanks for writing this. I was up half the night thinking about and praying for you. I feel so bothered that your family is facing this decision, largely because of numbers 2 and 10 on your cons list. Also thinking about whether it is feasible for two families to share a farm in order to make it possible for both. A newly farming family sure could benefit from your experience and knowledge. Praying for God’s blessings to you.

  • Georgia Brinkley

    Thanks for writing this. I was up half the night thinking about and praying for you. I feel so bothered that your family is facing this decision, largely because of numbers 2 and 10 on your cons list. Also thinking about whether it is feasible for two families to share a farm in order to make it possible for both. A newly farming family sure could benefit from your experience and knowledge. Praying for God’s blessings to you.

  • D’Ann

    Only you and your family can know what’s the right thing to do. If you feel God is telling you to go, then do it! As I said before, this change may not be forever; no one knows what doors may open on your new path and one of them may lead to a better farm and/or a better place and/or a better time with better circumstances. It’s hard to leave a lifestyle and place you love! Still, you can find a farmers market/CSA/food co-op to get the foods and connections you will always want and you can trust God to care for your desires as well as your needs. Maybe you’ll become urban homesteaders; you certainly have the knowledge and skills. Taking care of those items on the ‘pro’ list is important! You have my prayers and I’m sending you lots of warm fuzzies. When you trust God to set your feet on the path, the journey will surely bring good things!

  • D’Ann

    Only you and your family can know what’s the right thing to do. If you feel God is telling you to go, then do it! As I said before, this change may not be forever; no one knows what doors may open on your new path and one of them may lead to a better farm and/or a better place and/or a better time with better circumstances. It’s hard to leave a lifestyle and place you love! Still, you can find a farmers market/CSA/food co-op to get the foods and connections you will always want and you can trust God to care for your desires as well as your needs. Maybe you’ll become urban homesteaders; you certainly have the knowledge and skills. Taking care of those items on the ‘pro’ list is important! You have my prayers and I’m sending you lots of warm fuzzies. When you trust God to set your feet on the path, the journey will surely bring good things!

  • Dorothy

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Brenda. We’ll be praying for you and your beautiful family!

  • Dorothy

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Brenda. We’ll be praying for you and your beautiful family!

  • Tania

    Tough decision, but I am confident you can hear from God, and you can trust what your hearts are telling you. I hope you will never feel that you “failed” as farmers – just the opposite: you have provided top-quality food for many, you have been an eloquent voice for American farmers, and you have raised awareness of crucial issues our nation must face soon before it’s too late.
    And I never take lightly the courage required to turn dreams into reality – or even just make a sincere attempt. Personally, I’d rather not reach the end of my life with a bunch of dreams I never tried to do. Because then you’re left wondering what would have happened “if only” you’d tried. I think you can stand tall and confident in having tried out your dream; in fact, you have been living your dream, which few ever do. But now it’s time for the season to change again, and you can also be confident in your wisdom and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as He leads you from one season to the next. Blessings to you in the journey! And thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Tania

    Tough decision, but I am confident you can hear from God, and you can trust what your hearts are telling you. I hope you will never feel that you “failed” as farmers – just the opposite: you have provided top-quality food for many, you have been an eloquent voice for American farmers, and you have raised awareness of crucial issues our nation must face soon before it’s too late.
    And I never take lightly the courage required to turn dreams into reality – or even just make a sincere attempt. Personally, I’d rather not reach the end of my life with a bunch of dreams I never tried to do. Because then you’re left wondering what would have happened “if only” you’d tried. I think you can stand tall and confident in having tried out your dream; in fact, you have been living your dream, which few ever do. But now it’s time for the season to change again, and you can also be confident in your wisdom and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as He leads you from one season to the next. Blessings to you in the journey! And thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Bob Martin

    I visit with farmers across the U.S. who raise healthy food. The markets are good for these farmers back East, but very poor for those of us in the N.W.. In my experience, very few people in the N.W. are concerned enough about their health to pay the prices we have to get for the healthy food we produce. The mindset here seems to be: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Until this attitude changes, farmers will not be able to make the profit required in order to stay on the farm. We can’t do what we would like to do, but God is keeping us in food and clothing and your desire to limit debt and spend time together as a family are definitely two Biblical priorities. God will lead you down the right path! Bless you as you trust and rest fully on Him.

  • Sarah Clachar

    I just found you and read your article from yesterday. Here are a couple other things to think about: We raise a huge amount of our food (and a few extra pigs and chickens for other families) on our 3.2 acre homestead. It is not our source of income. But it is an income in that it saves us tons of money and allows us to eat good food, work together as a family and enjoy the farming life. Perhaps look for a situation where you’re not under the constraints of farming commercially at first. Just focus on getting your family’s food needs taken care of on a smaller homestead farm without the variables of the market and feed prices. Just take a few pig buyers and maybe sell a little extra fruit. Later build on this as you get settled. The other option is that I’ve apprenticed to farmers and seen lots of ads in our local ag bulletin for people with farms who are looking for people to move in and manage the farm. Usually these are people with money who have a nice piece of land and want to have someone keep the working farm going. You might try the Biodynamic farmer’s association or the some of the state organic farmer’s associations. This doesn’t pay well – often its simply free room and food off the farm plus a low stipend – but you wouldn’t be worrying about the financial success of the farm and would have a free place to live and farm. Good luck. I think fundamentally people have to learn that food – good food – costs money. People get very self-righteous about pure food without understanding how hard it is and how much it should be worth. I’ve watched our plums succumb to fungus so many years and we’re barely controlling it with an organic fungicide along with handpicking bad ones, weedwhacking, careful pruning, etc. Only glad I’m not depending on selling these for a living but need just enough to fill my freezer.

  • October

    Wow, loving ur blog, I just found it the other day by landing on ur selling the farm post… Just thought I’d chime in, lol… Ur first 2 Cons are big ones and this is what I am feeling, sometimes we don’t understand why God is closing a door, but I feel you have to do what is in ur heart & from an outside stand point it seems obvious that getting out from under ur debt is a #1… Maybe God let you do it this way the first time cuz it was inevitable u would fall in love, maybe now it’s right to sell so next time you can go all in debt free and do it the best way possible. So I say don’t be afraid & don’t look at it as a set back… Life is always moving forward, but I can tell you I’ve learned recently that things will go smoothly once you are in alignment with your purpose… You mentioned teaching and hospitality as your purpose, you must give your whole heart to what ever you feel your purpose is for God to rain your blessings upon you… Do what you feel in your heart is right no matter what your head tells you and I believe all will turn out well : ) best of luck to you and your family, I believe God has great plans for you and you are on your right path, in the end you will see clearly what it was all meant for, love to each of you and ur beautiful family!

  • Emily

    This may be a foolish question, but is it possible to sell your extra chicken and turkey to a healthy grocery store like New Seasons or Whole Foods, or the new-coming-to-our-state Natural Grocers? I’m over in Beaverton, but I’ve seen New Seasons sell pastured chickens, and a Natural Grocers is about to open here (and in 3 other locations in this state) and advertises that the only meat they will sell must be pastured and that they work with local farmers to obtain their goods. Could you possibly be one of the farms they work with?

  • NMHeckel

    I was wondering about the scale back option as well–that would allow you to still do some food-raising for your own family, and you don’t need too much space if you can stay on the wet side of the Cascades! This is something my husband and I are considering ourselves right now; we over-bought last year when we got our 14 acres, and we’re now finding that we can do everything we need for ourselves (and our local extended family) on less than half that . . . this year alone, we’ve started our garden (currently on about 0.2 acres), raised 20+ meat chickens, 9 turkeys, and some additional layers (we started with 13 layers last year) on the acre or so that is actually cleared. We could easily do 2-3 times as many meat chickens if we just kept moving the electronet and broiler hoop around the property and did them in 15-20 chicken batches. Next year, we’ll be starting the orchard (apples, pears, and native fruits–I’m an American persimmon fan) and adding some meat rabbits into the mix, but we’re still planning to keep the same basic footprint, which is why we’re considering selling this place and going somewhere smaller simply to decrease our debt-load.

    Definitely don’t look at this as an end to your dream–just look at it as a lesson in quick expansion, and pull back to the manageable borders!

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