(This is a photo of my first kitchen garden and campsite in my rookie year homesteading circa 1994 )
The few job postings I’ve come across for farming are usually for minimum wage labouring on commercial farms. You might be better seeking one of these positions if you’re not sure about a forever commitment, but I have never seen a posting for my lifestyle, that which I refer to as “Homestead Farmer” as it’s more of a self-employed way of life. So I’ve created a fictitious (yet accurate) tongue-in-cheek ad to provide some understanding as to what is entailed. Unlike most job ads, this one is in-depth and not candy-coated. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
HOMESTEAD FARMERS NEEDED FOR FOOD SECURITY
You must be strong, able-bodied, resilient and okay with getting stinky and dirty. You may work up to 14 + hr days/ 6-7 days a week, 7 or more months/year in all types of weather. There is no set schedule and you must be available at all times. Your hands will be permanently stained and callused, your back sore and you will most likely eventually get a hernia.
LOGISTICS AND JOB DESCRIPTION:
You must first acquire a piece of land preferably in the 5 acre range to start. (Finding a nice developed homestead with the infrastructure and house on it is out of the question unless you inherit one or you have a million dollars). You will need a 50% down payment on said piece as required by the banks for any undeveloped land without a house on it. For this you will have to beg, borrow or steal. You will most likely end up with a derelict lot away from an urban centre that needs driveway access, hydro, a well, a septic system, and a landline. You will probably not have cell service or wifi. You will need reliable transportation, preferably a truck. You will have to camp on this land until a cabin is built and services are in (approx 2-5yrs). During this time you will be analyzing your micro climate, making compost, improving the drainage, clearing, brushing, burning, tilling, fencing, testing the soil and water, applying for permits, and most importantly making friends with your neighbours (who you will rely on heavily for info, tools and help, but will have to reciprocate in return). You will be picking thousands of rocks, and once you think you have most of them, more will surface yearly, forever. Many trees and bushes will need to be planted for future fruit and buffers. Outbuildings such as sheds, barns, and chicken coops will have to be constructed. Salvaging, storing and using recycled building materials will take up a lot of time and effort but will be way cheaper than buying new. There is no course or training for any of this. You will have to learn everything the hard way; through trial and error. You must be able to adapt, improvise and suffer.
You will need to be resourceful and find side hustles here and there to finance the above infrastructure as production and income will slowly trickle in for many many years. Having a spouse to help is a definite asset, but finding one who will put up with such rustic conditions will be difficult. Keeping one will be even harder.
Eventually, once you’ve succeeded at producing your chosen crops and developed a niche market (you will already have learned that you can’t do everything or compete with the big farms), you will have to find a way to sell your products. This will involve attending lengthy farmers markets, setting up and maintaining a farm stand and doing cold calls, back door kitchen sales and deliveries. Once you’re at this stage you will have even more overhead in fees, fuel, insurance, advertising and additional help.
Any gardening, landscaping, mechanics, machine operating, tree planting or any labour intensive job experience is a definite asset. You must be able to do mindless tedious repetitious jobs yet also be a jack of all trades and problem solver.
Post secondary Diplomas and Degrees are worthless other than proving to yourself that you can stick it out on a shoestring budget. It’s also a hindrance in that you will have to explain to your family how you’ve squandered a perfectly good education and professional career possibilities to live in the bush like a hillbilly. Having student loan debt is extremely detrimental.
COMPENSATION (or lack of):
Calculating your wage is near impossible and fruitless. If you try to guess, it will rarely top minimum wage. You can only reap what you sow and that can take a long time or sometimes never. You will always be tight on funds as you straddle the poverty line. You will have to pay your bills promptly no matter what because you will rely on your credit rating very often. You will need and replace lots of implements and clothing without a tool allowance. There are no regular or extended medical benefits, injury, sickness or life insurance. Workplace injuries are not covered by WCB. There is no overtime, vacation or stat holiday pay, RRSP, pension fund or severance package. There is no crop loss insurance or subsidies for small farms. Self employed farmers are not eligible for unemployment insurance or welfare. Tips are extremely rare. You will need a well paying second job (preferably with some benefits) to survive the winter months.
OTHER BENEFITS (the positive):
You will be your own boss and work unsupervised. You can take ownership of all your failings and keep them secret.Your job will be secure, since everyone always needs to eat. You will be unaffected by recessions and global markets. You will be well positioned for a complete financial collapse or other disasters. You will not be demoted, replaced by technology or out sourced. (You will however be constantly undercut by mechanized agribusiness.) Once your farm is over 50% cultivated and you have a certain steady income you may apply for Farm Status to receive modest tax breaks on property taxes, fuel and supplies. You will live a heathy and holistic lifestyle with a sense of purpose and pride. You will become a steward of your piece of land and feel good about working toward sustainability. You will breathe clean air, drink fresh water and eat the most nutritious balanced diet. You be able to take lovely photos and post them on social media, where people will comment on the beauty and bounty that surrounds you. You will network and trade with other farmers for food, tools and help, building lasting friendships. You may sometimes be able to take a few days off (if you get someone to watch the farm) and possibly take a short vacation between seasons. In the end your children will inherit the legacy of your vision and hard work. If they decide to follow in your footsteps they will be much better set up for success.
ONLY SERIOUS CANDIDATES WHO ARE WILLING TO DEDICATE THEIR ENTIRE LIFE TO SUCH AN ENDEAVOUR NEED APPLY. THERE IS NO BACKING OUT. YOU WILL HOLD THIS POSITION UNTILL YOUR BODY CAN NO LONGER HANDLE IT.