When I was a kid people living in the country were mostly farmers or at least people who grew up farming. Times however are changing fast, very few people have any real experience with farming anymore. When people left the farm for the city the population of the countryside fell, farm acreage grew. The large family farm I worked for farmed land that once supported over 20 farms. One farm family was now farming what more than 20 farm families did in the past. This is made possible by a lot of hard work as well as modern equipment and practices.
This isn’t all bad, but it does make for a big disconnect between farmers and everyone else. The average person has no first hand experience with any kind of real farming. There is a big difference between a garden or hobby farm and depending on your farm as your source of income. I am not saying having a garden or hobby farms are bad, just saying their is a difference that many don’t understand.
The countryside population in the middle of the country is a fraction of what it once was. I can drive down just about any country road and see what were once farmsteads dotting the landscape. A stretch of land that once had 20 or more families living on it will now only have one. The country is actually becoming more remote, more wild. Like I said it isn’t all bad, wildlife is much more numerous than it once was. When my dad was a kid seeing a deer was worth talking about, now almost every evening I see a couple. Conservation had a major role to play but I think many discount the demographics that played a role.
It isn’t all good either. Where there were once 20 or more farming families supporting each other there is now only one. Neighbors are further apart, and often they are not even farmers anymore. Country folk are vastly outnumbered by city slickers. The countryside is being invaded by city slickers. They may live in the country, but they commute to the city to make their living. They are no more dependent on earning their living from the land then their city brethren. So here is my guide to the country living city slicker or the city slicker who has come to the country to become a farmer or to give it a try at making a living off the land. These rules are similar to what you may have heard from Joel Salatin or others, although it will have my take from my personal experiences.
#1 Shut Up and Listen. Especially if you are coming to the country to try your hand at farming. Your advise isn’t needed. When someone has been doing something their entire life and is likely a couple generations down the line of others doing it your advise is like a kindergartners advise to a college grad, dismissed without a thought. You don’t have the expertise to advise. Even if you have good ideas you must prove them by doing them, only talk about them when asked. Trust me you have a lot more to learn than you realize.
#2 Keep control of your dog. The country is not a free for all for dogs. The biggest predator problem I have is dogs, these dogs are often allowed to free range by someone who has not grown up in the country and has no livestock. Dogs are a predator, while they may be loving to those they consider part of their pack they will heartlessly rip the throats of others. Sometimes they will even attack calves and chase other large livestock. I don’t want to shoot a dog, but when that dog is attacking my stock my choices are limited. These same irresponsible owners will often be mad at the farmer who wasn’t given a choice and had to shoot their dog. If my kid went over to your house broke the door down and slashed the throat of you pet cat and any other living critter in your house you would be appalled. Yet a dog does the same thing, and many don’t realize it.
#3 Assistance is Expected. For people living in the country especially in the past their neighbors were their lifeline. When something went wrong there wasn’t someone to call, you leaned on those around you for help. If you are asked for help by your neighbors within reason do everything you can. They will be there for you when you need the help. If you see someone in need and you can help do so. This is starting to go away but it is one of the best things about country people.
#4 Nothing is Secret. Don’t tell someone something you don’t want everyone to know. News travels in the country. Everybody knows everybody else and everybody talks about everybody else. This is both good and bad.
#5 Respect Everyone. While everyone is not deserving of respect you should give everyone a clean slate at the start. That new neighbor of yours with a junky place might know a thing or two. He may be dirty because he works. The last thing anyone should do moving to the country is to look down on someone or think they are better.
#6 Keeping up with the Joneses. This doesn’t exist in the same way in the country. A multi millionaire might just wear dirty blue jeans and drive a beat up vehicle. Appearances are often deceiving in the country. A reputation as a fair and honest person is more important then outward appearance. Working gets you dirty, and who wants to get a good pair of clothes torn up. All true wealth comes from the land, and to get it you have to work. Straight rows, good crops, a good last name and owning prime land are the country equivalent. Unfortunately the city mindset is creeping into the country.
#7 Savor the Freedom. In many states like Missouri the country is the last bastion of freedom. Don’t try to control what your neighbor is doing, it is their freedom, their land. They can build what they want, how they want and store their stuff as they see fit. They can mow their lawn or let a jungle form. Isn’t this the real essence of America? You can only experience it in a few places that are left, so don’t try to change it.
Just like I stand out when visiting the city, those not from around here stand out in my realm. We grow up with different values, different jobs and different slang. We spend our free time differently and have different hobbies. Many of my hobbies are impossible inside the city limits. You can be a good upstanding city dweller just like you can be a druggy meth lab running country dweller. My goal is to give a glimpse to how people in my area think, if you plan on joining us it will help you make a smooth transition. My main goal is to encourage more country dwellers who make their living off the land.