How to do it all: Finding balance on the family farm

How to do it all: Finding Balance on the Family Farm

“How do you do it all?” she asked.  

We were setting up next to each other at the farmers market when my fellow vendor posed the question with a note of defeat in her voice.  It startled and surprised me, and for a split second I thought the question had to be for someone else.

“I don’t do it all.  If you could see the list of things I don’t do that I want to do…” I said.

When the question came, I’d just spent the previous 2 days in a wash of anxiety and tears, not triggered by any one particular thing, but seemingly rising on the crest of changing seasons and changing desires and changing ideas of who exactly I am meant to be.  

There’s not enough space in a blog post to dive fully into these questions, but the heart of it is that I often feel like I should be able to do more and wonder how everyone else does it.  

In the years I’ve lived with anxiety I’ve had to learn over and over how to draw myself back to right now, to right where I am, without comparing my situation to the outer veneer of another’s. 

Through it all, I’ve discovered that doing it all isn’t what I’m after.  What I’m after is balance.  

How To Do It All

1. Decide what’s important

When we started Good Heart Farmstead, we literally wanted to do it all.  Our dream was to create a year-round, full-diet CSA for 40 families. We envisioned providing everything someone might want (you know, beyond coffee and chocolate): vegetables, meat, grains, sugar in the form of honey and maple syrup.  

At the same time, we’d drafted a Holistic Goal for our farm, and saw that quality of life was at the root of what we wanted to create.  We wanted to grow a farm, yes, but we also wanted to grow a life that had space for creativity and adventure beyond the fields.  

Even though we set out to do it all, we knew the most important aspect to us was to create a farm that supported our lives, rather than our lives constantly supporting the farm.  

So ask yourself: what’s the most important thing for you?  

2.  Let go of everything else

We got one season into our goal of producing a full diet before changing directions.  It just wasn’t economically feasible or physically realistic for two people and a newborn to do so much.  

We recalibrated what was important, let go of the livestock and became a vegetable farm.  

At the end of the day, we wanted to enjoy our farm, and the sheep’s constant escapes and escapades were preventing that from happening.  

The details may change—no more livestock for us—but the core goals remain the same—a farm that holistically supports our lives.  

What do you need to let go of to focus on what’s really important?

Icelandic sheep on pasture at Good Heart Farmstead
goodbye, sheep—we just can’t do it all

3. Map out what you need to do to make it happen

I have a post-it note on above my desk that reads: Dream like an eagle.  Plan like a mouse.

I thrive on envisioning the big picture, but that sweeping goal will only be realized by taking a lot of tiny steps.  The dream is the spark that gets me going, while creating a plan and then acting on that plan is what gets me there.

Sometimes the enormity of a dream can overwhelm me—there’s so much to do!  How will I ever get there? It helps to break it down into yearly, monthly, and weekly tasks.  You don’t have to do it all at once (you can’t do it all at once).  You just have to take one step at a time.

What’s one step you can take now to get closer to your goal?

4. Make yourself accountable

As life and farming partners, Edge and I work together to make sure we follow through on our plans.  It helps, too, that we have customers who’ve paid up front for a season’s worth of veggies—they’re a strong driving force to getting the work done.

Sometimes we pile ourselves too high with to-do’s, and some things get left to fall to the wayside.  That’s okay. The important things will inevitably get done.

On the creative side, though, I don’t have a writing partner to stay accountable to.  When you’re working toward an individual goal, find ways to make yourself accountable.  Get a friend who will check in on your progress. Make promises to those who read your work (posting a new blog once a week, for example), and stick to it.  

How can you make yourself accountable?

5. Do it everyday

Farming requires consistency.  Even on the weekends, we walk the fields and water the crops.  Consistently showing up and doing the work is what makes the crops grow (at least what makes them grow weed-free).  

When it comes to creative work, set a time and space and show up.

Each morning I wake up, make a cup of tea, and sit down in my writing nook.  Sometimes I journal, sometimes I work on a blog or essay, and sometimes I only get a few good sentences out.  At the very least, I sit down in my nook.

What routine can you create to help you show up every day?

6. Give yourself a break

Some days won’t go as planned.  Some mornings you’ll sleep past the alarm and only have 15 minutes before your kid wakes up and needs your attention.  

But this isn’t about doing it all—it’s about finding balance.  

Be gentle with yourself.  Keep taking small steps forward.  Remember why you’re doing this in the first place: to grow a life you love.  

Sunset over the flower field at Good Heart Farmstead.  Choosing balance over doing it all.
grow a life that brings you joy

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  1. I so appreciate your regular doses of wisdom. I’m 70, 2 years into my farm, doing it alone (with great friends and neighbors when needed), and I frequently lose that precious sense of balance. Thank you for all the good and wise reminders.

    • Thank you so much, Rika. We still lose balance, too, but we’ve found these steps help us regain it! Thanks for all you’re growing. Here’s to a bountiful harvest season~