This is an excerpt from SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller’s book of essays and editorials, entitled Why Farm. Why Farm is a philosophical look at farming, a deep and enriching reminder of why we do what we do.

Why Farm

“Among those who might read this there are two groups to which it is specifically addressed: one contains those who are yet to choose their work and might have an inkling that farming should figure in, the other contains those who have had very tough times in recent years and have either decided to quit farming or might be wondering why they ever got into it.

In a discussion entitled ‘Why Farm’ it would be far too easy to list the bleak vocational alternatives to farming and talk about the difficulties in finding satisfying work that pays well and offers some semblance of job security. It would also be easy to point out the unpleasantness that often comes from the pressures of working for others, especially large impersonal corporations. But talking about those things takes us in the wrong direction. Instead of looking over our shoulders at what we might not want in our lives, it makes more sense to look ahead at what we would like to have in our lives and what we need our lives to mean.

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision. A farmer sees, in his mind’s eye, that the fields might look, feel and produce a certain way. Then all manner of tangible and intangible ingredients are brought into the creative process that involves four dimensions. It is a form of living sculpture with the fourth dimension being a knowledge that today’s form has immeasurable effect on tomorrow’s. As pure industry there is no value given to the perceived (felt) satisfactions of progress and result. As Art those satisfactions are a major reward and motivation to continue. As industry the fourth dimension of anticipated long term effect has no value. As Art the future shape of farming adventure keeps the spirit and hope alive and vibrant. Farming as a way of living contributes to the strength of the family structure and to the culture of local communities. As industry, farming cannot be concerned for these things because there are no immediate financial rewards to be had. The attraction to farming has, more often than not, been that it promises a humane way of living.”