Why farming?

Earlier this week, I wrote about our plan for a dramatic change in lifestyle.

To me, this is life coming full circle. I am finally confident enough in myself to identify what I truly want and go for it. Where I only saw the impossible as a child, I can now see how we can make it possible to survive off the land, even if we make a pittance growing fruits and vegetables.

But why on earth would I want to be a farmer? And an organic one at that?

Standing your ground

When my father called and wanted to talk about the strange thing he had seen on my instagram feed (the marvellous farming school tracker on the right hand side on a Norwegian account), he wanted to make sure I had thought things through.

I told him the truth. I was not happy in academia, or with spending all my days inside in an office/lab. I missed my summers as a landscape gardener, and I wanted to be outside. I also found the sharp elbows and high ambitions of academia not to be what I wanted, and I was making plans to leave.

Always the pragmatic, my father thought my workplace was the main reason I was not happy with my career. He tried to remind me that there are smaller companies where a chemist might find their purpose. Where they could be the boss of their own little lab and not have to teach several hundred students.

But I told him it was not just the ambitions and the people, it was also the staying inside a concrete building all day and being at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. I wanted out, and I wanted to be the boss of my own time. Not unimportantly – I was willing to trade a large chunk of my income for that freedom.

Time for money

When I first started studying chemistry, I found it interesting enough. I hoped I would be useful enough to society. I mean, I had been bored since my first day at school. Why would I have any reason to believe working life could be any different? Naively though, I thought I could find a part-time job as an analytical chemist, because I knew my expenses were lower than most, and I valued free time more than I wanted money.

This was an argument I expected my father to understand. Here was a man who had consciously traded higher paying jobs with a longer commute for shorter commutes so he could spend more time with his family. I told him I was making the same decision. Every interview I hear with a farmer, they talk about how yes, it is a lot of work, but it is on your own terms. You make the schedule and you do the work. There is no boss waiting for you for the 9 am Monday meeting, though there might be livestock depending on you if you decide to go down that route.

I am willing to take that pay cut to regain control over my time. I am willing to do the work.

The school that changed my world

Back in 2014 I had just finished my Msc in analytical environmental chemistry. I had no job, so I moved back in with my best friend in the north of Norway and worked temp contracts in anything from cafeterias to kindergardens while I applied for more anxious-calming full-time work.

One Saturday we were in town, I came across a stand called “save the eco-school”.

I had never heard of this eco-school, but I started googling. I found out that this tiny farming school had been running since 1917, but now, almost 100 years later, a building inspection had told them they needed to significantly upgrade their buildings for the health of the students and staff, or close their doors.

Sadly, while the state told them to upgrade or close, they didn’t provide the money to do so. This is the only organic farming school in Norway, and they are threatened to close? Activists all over the country banded together, started facebook groups and started fundraising at stands much like the one I had encountered over 100 kilometers from the school itself.

I was intrigued, by thought the train had passed for me, since it was a high school, and I had passed high school many years before.

In 2017 they reopened the school with brand new buildings, a brand new website, and a brand new party to celebrate their 100th anniversary. I celebrated with them from afar, still wondering what might have happened had I gone down that route.

That is, until I sent them an email and asked what it would take to get into their school, and if there was tuition for someone who has already passed high shool.

There was not! Only an exam or some basic farming experience was in the way of my future at the school that so much looked like an idyllic farm in between tall mountains (seriously, check out their instagram, they look like they’re having so much fun!). A tiny idea started to take root, and it grew slowly in the back of my mind until I realized it had thoroughly taken root and refused to let go.

With online sidehustles at out back to help with the income, I was going to make real my old dream of living self-sufficiently off the land and hopefully feed other people in the process. Plastic free, of course!

Theory and practice

When I look back on the twisting path it has taken me to reach this conclusion, it seems unbelievable to me that I didn’t understand what I really wanted before now. I always liked growing things after all, but I never thought I could make a living doing it. I was too busy stressing about passing the next exam, getting the next summer internship, and turning in that mandatory assignment. I don’t think I truly stopped to think until I got this four year contract and knew our expenses would be taken care of for a while so long as I kept my head down.

I had come into chemistry because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help our planet by taking samples and analyzing them for environmental pollution.

But the more I dug into the literature, the more I came to the conclusion that we really, truly have known about this since the 60’s. My voice would be one of many voices in a large choir, trying to make the case for change. An evidence based choir yes, but one that didn’t actually make any changes. We only prove that there is a problem and hope there will be legislation made against it.

Now, this is still a noble pursuit, and I admire those at the barricades who have been fighting for this for decades.

But I wanted to be part of the solution, part of the change. Not just talking about it and identifying the problem.

So I realized I wanted to plant trees, grow organic food and regenerate the earth. To provide people with good, healthy and local food. Perhaps even run some courses in how people might grow and make such food for themselves.

The power of FI

The thought that this was even possible at all did not properly take root until well after I had learned about the basic concepts of financial independence. Where I saw that there were people making choices that lead to a life drastically different from the one we are fed by the mainstream media (and many role models).

Why I decided to change from analytical chemistry to organic farming. Knowing yourself in the process of career change.

Even though we are nowhere near FI yet, just adopting the mindset has made us see that there are many different ways to live, and none are better or worse than the other, just different. And some are more suitable for certain people than others. Even better, FI has united Mr. Frugasaurus and myself towards a common goal, making his writing sidehustle a part of a bigger goal, and making him feel slightly less bad about not “pulling his weight” in our economy at the moment.

I keep telling him he’ll be my sugar daddy when I go back to school. He doesn’t quite believe me, but I think it makes him feel a little better. I am happy so long as he has the confidence to keep trying. We have agreed that he has to give it his best shot for at least a year before he is allowed to contemplate giving up.

Learning about financial independence allowed us to believe all this was possible. That we could have the life we want. Wholly, and without compromise.

Because to us, time is much more important than money, and neither of us need to be rich to be happy.

4 Comments on “Why farming?

  1. I can soooo relate to your preference to be outside. I would write far more blog posts if they could magically generate themselves while I picked tomatoes, cut and arranged flowers, potted plants, or enjoyed a long leisurely lunch in the garden with friends.

    I think regenerative organic farming will provide you a most satisfying, enjoyable, and meaningful path to FI. There’s so much more emphasis being placed on regenerative agriculture. It’s much more than producing fruits and vegetables. You will be building and regenerating soil and sequestering carbon as well presuming you practice carbon farming methods (the more perennial plants the better for carbon sequestration). You will definitely be part of the solution. I look forward to following your journey and cheering you on from across the ocean.

    • Haha yeah, I know what you mean! I enjoy the seasonality of Norway a lot, but it is a bit sad to be stuck in the office when it’s glorious summer weather outside.

      Regenerative farming and perennials are definitely high on my list! And I know the school has gotten funding to focus on soil regeneration experiments for several years ahead. I can’t wait to see what they have learned when I hopefully get there!

  2. I think it’s fantastic that you’re finding your way to what you really want to be doing. Some of us (*cough* me) still don’t know. And I very much look forward to reading more about your experiences.

    Did your dad understand, after that conversation?

    • Haha, yeah. It’s super hard to figure out. There are just so many options! Part of why I landed on farming is because you get to do a ton of different things.

      “Understand” is an overstatement. He tries to respect my wishes, but he still thinks I’m throwing my education in the drain and that I should consider working for a smaller company if I am unhappy at my large university.

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