How much are you worth? I keep hearing in the media that so and so is worth so many millions of dollars. Whether on audio, video or blog format, content about making money and becoming rich fast has proliferated like crazy. Is that what it all comes down to? How much money you have or are able to generate?
Farming gives me a salary considered below the poverty line in Canada. Does that mean that I am not worth much? If you ask the people who know me, I am pretty sure they would disagree with that. But sometimes it is hard not to feel poor, particularly when I hear other people say that such and such things are cheap, and I think “cheap? That would take me a week of hard work to pay for!”
This past summer, worrying about money gave me the worst health problems I have had in years. I value health above anything else, so I embarked in a journey to try to learn not to worry about money. Easier said than done, of course, but here are some things I have been thinking about:
There are a lot of farmers out there that make a comfortable living farming. I admire them and try to learn as much as I can from them. But for most, the reality is that it is very hard to make money farming, particularly in the first 6-10 years. While I am always trying to innovate to increase the financial viability and long-term sustainability of our farm, I am also learning to appreciate the non-monetary benefits of growing food for our community, including the relationships that come with it, both with people and the rest of Nature.
Getting meaningful things done is strongly tied to my self-worth. Being productive is awesome, but we are not production machines, we are human beings. I have to remind myself that it is okay to take 5 extra minutes to complete a task if that means I can keep a better posture, or that I enjoy myself more, or that I pay attention to all the wonderful life around me. I don’t want my job to interfere with the sense of wonder that I get when I see a bird feeding their chicks, or a butterfly pollinating a flower, or when I hear the leaves of a Trembling Aspen in the wind. I am learning to teach myself that I am worthy just for being.
When I take the time to think about it, I feel like I am a very wealthy person. I am lucky to live in an ecosystem that provides me with food, water, fuel, shelter, wonder, and so much beauty, all of which keep me healthy mentally and physically. I am also lucky to live in a safe and supportive community, and to know and love people I can count on. In cash terms, although I am considered “poor” by Canadian standards, I make more money than 90% of the world’s population. I am sure that among those (7.1 billion) people, many are happy, healthy, caring and contributing members of society. Perhaps it is not a question of me being poor, but of many being too rich.
Farming does not need to be my only occupation. It sure takes 100% of my energy for 8 months out of the year, and probably more than 80% the other 4 months, but I have other interests and passions. Teaching is one of them, and thankfully, once in a while I get paid to do it. A lot of farmers have off-farm jobs, and that is absolutely fine, and arguably healthy. But this is also perverse: in Canada and many other places, food is valued so little that most farmers cannot make a living farming full-time. Imagine that a doctor or a lawyer practiced medicine or law out of their love to help people, but had to work a second job to make ends meet, and were, as a result, always at the edge of burnout. Would you say that would be fair? Why do farmers have to endure that? Aren’t we as worthy as other professionals?
Some may say that the seasonal nature of farming in Canada makes income seasonal too. But farming is not limited to the growing season. Many farmers produce year-round, and those who don’t, like me, are still invested in farming over the winter. If you want to know more, check the post: so, what do you do over the winter? Even if this was true, I guarantee every farmer out there puts their fair share of hours over the summer to compensate for the quieter season.