I'm not gonna lie. Farming is hard work. Back-breaking work. Sweaty, stinky, dirty work. You definitely go to bed sore and wake up achy. And at this point, we are farming less than an acre of land. The commercial guys out there are farming hundreds and hundreds of acres using huge expensive machinery that allows them plant and harvest huge amounts of food each week, compared to what we manage, doing everything by hand.
Add to that the fact that many local grocery stores now offer some organic vegetables that are sometimes even grown by local, established farmers. And we're still hand-packing our vegetables into boxes and driving them into Winchester, Leesburg, and Washington, DC in our decidedly non-tractor-trailer cars.
Why do we bother?
Because there are SO MANY teens and adults with intellectual disabilities who have empty hands, a lot of time on their hands, and a desperate desire to work. Once school is out for the summer or for good, these citizens have a lifetime ahead of them that they want to fill with something besides playing X-Box or hanging out with their parents all day. Not to mention the fact that one day, those parents will no longer be able to care for them...
Greg and I can see ourselves in that mental picture. We see our son, who is only 9 at the moment, sitting around at the age of 22, 35, 41, staring off into space, watching YouTube videos, snacking, and generally being bored out of his mind. Meanwhile, his sister will most likely have no trouble finding ways to fill her days with work and social opportunities, probably designing some crazy outfit out of her studio apartment in New York one day.
What a waste of my son's untapped health, energy, and time. What a missed opportunity to give parents like us a bit of a break for a few hours each day, and sense of relief that their now-grown children might have something productive to do during the decades of adulthood ahead of them.
This is why we launched A Farm Less Ordinary. We are not trying to compete with "The Big Guys". We are simply trying to create paid work for a group of people whose potential is often wasted, once they are out of the school system. Yes, we know that we are just a drop in the bucket, in terms of 1) creating enough jobs to satisfying the gaping need that exists out there, and 2) contributing food to a growing and already enormous organic food industry in the U.S.
A Farm Less Ordinary is definitely a labor of love that has probably added more grey hairs to my head than I care to admit. We are only in Year 2, as an official non-profit, and we do it in addition to our day jobs and parenting responsibilities. Each day is literally a trampoline bounce for us between all three of those things, each piece of which demands our time and energy...and love.
But we're doing something. We're not just wringing our hands, wondering what will become of our son. And that something makes the cracking knees, sun spots, and grey hair a little easier to ignore.
And we've only just begun. We have such big plans.
But we're trying to grow A Farm Less Ordinary in a wise way. We not rushing to till more land before we have the staff and means to care for it. We haven't rushed to buy machinery or tools, until we are 100% certain that we will use these investments in a way that justifies their cost. And we have narrowed our sights and mission on causes and food sales outlets that we can actually manage. Of course there are tons of restaurants, grocery stores, and markets that we could approach to sell our veggies. And there are tons of potential events we could throw and people we should talk to. Indeed, the firehose of ideas and opportunities has been turned on for three years now, ever since we started farming in 2015.
But we can't say yes to every suggestion or idea that pops into our heads. So we say yes to what we can manage and complete successfully.
That is why we are participating in the GiveChoose event today - a 24 hour fundraising event that draws attention to the non-profits in Loudoun County, Virginia (like ours) that are trying to turn a labor of love into something larger. These organizations usually sprout from an idea similar to the one we had - to begin filling in a hole with a small solution, shovelful by shovelful, with a hope and a prayer that this solution can thrive and grow into something sturdy and permanent, with deep roots and a beautiful flower at the top.