I love pockets. Pants (and shirts) without pockets are useless to me. I love eggs. I could eat a fried egg sandwich on sourdough for every meal and I do, when my wife is visiting her parents out of town. You get the punchline already: love for pockets and eggs does not mean eggs belong in pockets. And, while there is much experience to substantiate the cliched maxim of not putting all your eggs in one basket, sometimes you have to learn by trying. I have read about as much as a man could read about farming. I have tried much of what I’ve read. I was never told not to put eggs in my pockets when collecting the day’s bounty. That may be self-explanatory to most but for me it was natural to put the eggs in my pockets as I went about my chores. Inevitably two things happen: 1) an egg or two will break in your pocket (this is the lesson of the day) and 2) eventually you will have too many eggs to fit in your pockets (this the moral of the story).
I have learned two things as a beginning farmer that have become invaluable to my farming worldview. Read incessantly and respect the experience of others but avoid chaining yourself to the ideas of others. Your ideas are as valuable as another’s. Your land is different than another’s. Your family and your life don’t mirror anyone else. So, you have to fail in your own context to grow. Or, put another way, just try things and learn. Even if someone else or a book told you it can’t be done. Sometimes especially then. That’s the lesson of the day, every day.
The moral of the story is about the bigger picture. I have been gardening for a decade and farming for three years but dreaming for a lifetime. I am an idealist with visions of grandeur which can be a great asset but I must be cognizant of the tyranny of the dream. I will write more about that later but for now it’s important to convey that farming is one step in front of the other. There are a lot of successful small farmers. There are also plenty of people in agriculture, and small ag in particular, that either say explicitly or intimate that it cannot be done profitably. You may dream of putting your eggs in a basket but don’t overlook the experience of your pockets. Your pockets are critical to helping you define success within the dream. No one else can do this for you. Eventually your pockets will be empty.