Small Steps & Giant Leaps: The Most Important Lesson For Starting A Farm

I did think, let's go about this slowly. Poem by Mary Oliver

We bought our land in June 2012, and told everyone we weren’t going to move here until the following spring.

“That’s very responsible of you,” our lawyer said at the closing.  “If it were me I wouldn’t be able to help myself from moving right away.”

I smiled inside, feeling very responsible indeed.

After all, we just bought an open field and a plot of forest.  Aside from a powerline in the Southeast corner of the property, there were no utilities, no water, no buildings.

We started our farm from the ground up on an open field

We started our farm from the ground up on an open field

We’d borrowed more than the land cost, so between our savings and the money left over from our land loan, we had about $30,000 to start a farm.  Even now, 6 years later, I look at that number and think, “$30,000 is a lot of money.”

But geez, it doesn’t go far when you’re literally starting from the ground up.

So yes, I felt very responsible that we were going slow and taking very thoughtful, careful steps.

But bless us—

By September we raised a yurt and moved onto the land.

Yurt raising at Good Heart Farmstead, it's important to have helping hands when starting a farm

Yurt raising at Good Heart Farmstead

We spent $3000 to develop a shallow spring and run a frost-free hydrant to the sheep barn we were building, and a line with a hand pump up to our yurt.  The hand-pump thrilled me to no end, because for 2 years we’d lived in a yurt on another farm, hauling water in 5 gallon jugs.

So a hand-pump was pretty high-class living.

{And if you’re wondering, we managed to save up money by living on a farm in our own yurt, trading work for rent.  Edge and I both worked elsewhere in the winters—he in a sugar woods and me at a ski resort, then a bakery. We occasionally splurged on fancy local cheese and Redbox movies.}

By summer 2013 we were growing our first CSA and a baby.  While both steps were thoughtful, neither were small.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned more than anything over the last 6 years of starting and running a farm it’s to start.  Just start.

Plant a seed.  Take a leap.  

Start before you’re ready, before you know everything.  

Because you’ll never know everything.  

In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll know less the longer you farm—or at least, you’ll appreciate that there’s so much you don’t know that you don’t know.

Growing a farm and growing a life is a constant unfolding.  Having a vision is important, though I believe curiosity and flexibility are the most essential tools any farmer, homesteader, or gardener can have.

And when all else fails, a good poem can bring back of the joy of it all.


April is National Poetry Month!  I LOVE poetry, and Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets.

Is there a poem or poet with a special place in your heart? Please do share in the comments below—I always love discovering more poetry.

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