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Is Everyone Farming Without Me?

(Photo: Stock image.)

It seems like lately everyone I know is channeling their inner Old McDonald. I see it in their Instagram posts: "Fresh Eggs!!!!!!", "Yummy Kale!!!" and "First heirloom squash of the season!!!!"

These modern farmers are very enthusiastic. The tobacco farmers I grew up knowing would never have posted, "Replaced 10 acres of Burley with Brightleaf!!!!"

And my agri-newbie friends are mostly non-military or former military. Beyond one or two patio planters with herbs and tomatoes, my active military friends generally have to settle for complaining about rotten commissary produce and dreaming of one day living near a Whole Foods again.

(Incidentally, one opens near my house in five days. By the time you read this, I'll be spinning Julie Andrews-style through aisles of quinoa and chard.)

This farming thing, though? It's getting ridiculous. Recently, on a trip home to Nashville, a friend told me that she bought a cow. This friend lives in Brentwood.

Brentwood is the land of the $80,000 SUV. It's where $425 'bronde' multi-process hair styles that have to be touched up every four weeks with extra root color so they look totally natural are standard. It's where yoga wear is for everything but yoga -- because who even does yoga anymore? Eighties Brentwood ladies were soccer moms. Now that soccer is passe, Brentwood moms have moved on to lacrosse, Irish dancing and Lego-robotics-pre-STEM-coding competitions, after Mandarin tutoring, natch.

You getting the picture?

When one's backyard is a granite-topped outdoor kitchen with a gas-powered fire pit and an under mount Sub Zero chardonnay cooler, where does one put a whole cow?

"A half cow," she told me. "We bought a half-cow."

Which is obviously disgusting, and maybe a sign that she's not as LuluLemon as I thought. Did Patrick Bateman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Bateman start an athleisure line?

"From a butcher," she explained. "For the freezer. And he cut it up for us, so we'll always have clean, organic steaks and ground beef. It's so much cheaper and our freezer is so full!"

I nodded, sort of understanding.

"Ha! You thought we bought a live cow! That's hysterical! Where would we even put a cow? We don't have room for that!"

Pause.

"But we are thinking of getting a goat."

"A half one?" I asked.

"A half one?! Ha! We don't want to eat it! A living goat! Ha! No, we'd get it for the milk. Goat milk is so much healthier with all our dairy allergies and candida. Plus, a goat would be so great for the kids, it would really get them back to their roots."

(Their roots are bronde, too, by the way.)

To be clear, I'm not judging her -- at all. Something about having a goat appeals to me. Probably it's the never-having-to-mow-again part, but maybe it's also because I'm a first generation suburbanite. My mom traded in her 4-H and Future Farmer of America (FFA) memberships for an Home Owners Association that offered "common areas." I grew up hearing about farming, but never really doing it.

So I scan through all those images of cute little goats and heirloom tomatoes and fresh eggs from free range hens and I do get a little envious. It all looks so bucolic and natural.

My great-grandmothers were hardworking farmers' wives. They used washboards and irons that didn't plug in. They made soap and churned butter, and not the lavender-scented and truffle-infused kinds. They made the if-I-don't-make-this-we-won't-have-any-soap-or-butter kinds. You've heard the phrase "put them through the ringer?" They had actual laundry ringers, and washboards. And churns, people, they had churns.

When the tomatoes and cucumbers were coming in, they canned and made pickles. When the peach and pear trees started dropping fruit, they made pies and preserves. When the cows were calving? They helped, and let's just leave it at that.

It seems like there was an enviable, quiet, contemplative symmetry to their days, something we don't get much of anymore. But you know what there wasn't?

A job.

I don't mean that to imply that they didn't work. They worked All. The. Time. They rarely stopped working. On top of raising ridiculously large families during a time when men didn't co-parent, they had to do all that stuff that we now consider crafty, but they didn't do it as a form of expression. They did it for food. The did it because that was their job, because they didn't go to work. They stayed to work. And they didn't telecommute or freelance, either.

And they weren't Must Have Parents, either, because there's no such thing as a farmer who has to travel a lot for work. Farming, by definition, requires being present.

But then the world changed.

I'm a first generation suburbanite because modern conveniences and being able to buy instead of make necessary things freed up enough time in my parents' days to allow them to pursue other interests. And so what if those interests involved shoulder pads, fax machines, water skiing and T-Tops? It was the '80s.

To put an even finer point on it, my grandmothers and great grandmothers were too busy being accidentally artisanal to lean in. My mother was too busy leaning in to be artisanal. And so now, me and my generation, we're trying to do both. Unfortunately, not even the sustainably-harvested-hand-wittled-wooden-faced-watch I bought my husband off a Kickstarter will give me any extra hours in the day.

Modern conveniences meant that we didn't have to spend hours using a washboard and a ringer anymore, we could just push the button on a load of brights on our way out the door, and then we could spend those hours on something else.

And so we're spending them ... raising goats and making soaps?

Whatever floats your boat.

Maybe I'll get a goat, or some chickens someday, but not now, not during this crazy season of life. Even my hardworking farmer ancestors took Sunday off. Besides, I've eaten fresh eggs and drank raw milk. You know what they tasted like? Eggs and milk.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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