Life Lessons I've Gained From Living on a Farm
In early September 2015, I found myself walking through a charming brick farmhouse on top of a hill in East Vancouver, trying not to show how excited I was. It was perfect. The timing, the location, the acreage, it was everything we wanted. And a week and a half later, the owners agreed with me by accepting our offer.
As our move-in date got closer, I couldn’t help but wonder if we bit off more than we could chew in buying the place. We were going from a brand-new two-story house with an HOA-maintained yard to a 5-acre farm, partly forested with an orchard consisting of 16 fruit trees, huge garden, barn, and multiple fields for livestock. I knew this was going to be a huge lifestyle change for my family.
Two-and-a-half years later, our family agreed that this was the best decision we could have made together. There have been many trials and HUGE learning curves in taking care of the land we have, as well as failures and successes. Here are a few new values we have gleaned as a family from our time on the farm so far.
When you nurture and cultivate something (or someone), it will grow, thrive and give back to you.
This makes sense on a farm, right? This is 10-fold when you are responsible for taking care of many fruit trees and growing a garden. There is so much work to be done at the beginning of the year season before we ever see the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor. But when you can reach up and grab a delicious apple, pear, or plum off your own tree during harvest time, it makes all the earlier efforts worth it. How often do we see the same concept with a friendship or a relationship we treasure? When it comes to our own family dynamic, spending the time to care for the land together out of necessity with a united goal has taught us how to nurture our own connections with each other over time.
In order for growth, you must prune!
I love the beginning of the year when it’s time to prune the fruit trees. Pruning is critical to the health of the tree and the fruit it produces as it takes dead and diseased wood off the tree. Without those branches zapping resources from the tree, it can then flourish and produce more and better fruit. Pruning season provides the reminder I need to remember that certain things may need to be reconsidered and removed in order to be as productive and as fruitful as I want to be in life and business.
If you want your best efforts, you must thin!
When a tree is pruned, it will generally make more fruit. However, if you don’t thin some of the excess fruit off the tree, the tree will become laden with the extra produce which leads to a mediocre harvest with smaller, less tasty fruit. How often do we, as mothers and business owners, see so many great opportunities as we grow our family and business that we want to take advantage of? Soon, we’re running around, expending energy we need just to function and find ourselves spread so thin that we really aren’t excelling at…anything. Same with the trees. We need to focus our energies to what we want to accomplish, like a tree needs to focus its energies on the remaining fruit so it will grow larger and sweeter.
It’s not always about you.
This is probably one of the most important values I pray my kids will take with them as they grow older and move off the farm. I’ll be honest, the transition from suburbia to a farm in the middle of a city has not been all sunshine and rainbows. There was one point where I heard my oldest mutter, “I didn’t ask to move to a farm,” while doing yard work. The days of everyday Netflix watching and computer time has been interrupted with this move, which I personally grieve for from time to time. Between the yard work and the farm animals, we all have learned daily responsibility and how putting our wants before the animals’ needs can be detrimental. Every evening, whether we’re tired or just want to be done for the day, we know that if the chickens are not put up and counted it may result in a chicken getting hurt or eaten by predators. It is not always about us and what we want to do. If we don’t spend time during harvest season picking fruit, all of our earlier efforts will be wasted.
Our farm continues to teach us the value of hard work, perseverance, and the enjoyment of a simpler life. It has also taught us that if we don’t succeed one season, we have the opportunity to figure out what we did wrong to try again and get it right. Whether personally or professionally, our efforts will yield fruit in our lives, whether it’s good fruit, bitter fruit, small fruit, fruit that rots the other fruit around it, or the best fruit you’ve ever had. The questions we as mothers and business individuals should be asking ourselves each season of our lives – what kind of fruit are you producing? And what can you do to make it better?
Cathy Baillargeon is a business management consultant with Salsbury & Co as well as owns a virtual assistant company. In her downtime, she loves reading, working on her farm and spending time with the kids, her husband of 14 years, and their four spoiled dogs.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Anderson via Stocksnap.