Why I Farm: Beth Greenwood


Well, first, I don’t know if what I do is really farming. Out here in the west it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re raising crops, raising livestock or raising both; the tendency is to call it a ranch. There are almond ranches, prune ranches, cattle ranches, hay ranches… But on our place we have horses and pigs and cattle (milk and beef), chickens and sheep. We have orchards and ponds and fenced pastures; we cut out own wood and try to raise as much food as we can. So whatever you call us, our activities include a lot of things traditionally called farming, as well as some things that aren’t, such as the firewood business and the custom wood milling business and the free-lance writing and the blog.

As to the why: my husband grew up on an Idaho ranch, I grew up in town but was horse crazy by the time I was five. My parents were doctors who eventually bought a ranch to have a place for the horses and because it was a good investment. I only got to live there for about two years, as I got married and moved back to town. I hated it. I missed the space, the green, the wild animals. I couldn’t just go out to the barn and have a friendly conversation with my saddle mare when I was having a bad day. I had to buy produce – even though I tried to grow a few things in my postage stamp plot. Most of all I missed the peace.

I farm/ranch/do what I do to ensure we have the best possible source of food, to be self-sufficient, to have daily access to beauty. I like to be able to give a one-fingered salute to those who would try to tell me what I can and can’t eat, to outsmart the Monsanto crowd by saving my own seeds, and to instill the same spirit of cussedness in the grandchildren. I want to have as much independence and freedom as possible. I get tremendous satisfaction out of knowing that among the four of us adults (husband, daughter, son-in-law), we have the skills to handle just about anything that comes along.

When the food on your dinner plate is the beef or lamb or pork you fed and watered every day, then butchered as quickly and painlessly as possible, and the vegetables were growing in the garden a few hours before, you are rich no matter how much or little money you have. Add in the warmth of the fire from wood you cut and stacked yourself, the counters and cabinets milled from your own lumber, the quail chuckling outside the window and the three point buck or wild turkey wandering past as you eat – it’s official: life doesn’t get any better than this!


Roof, Sal, Paula, Katie — thank you for your kind words!

We are living self sufficiently as well. It is incredibly satisfying . Although I worry about the rest of the people.
We are calling ourselves a ranch as well . We currently have chickens, veggie gardens and fruit trees. We live off grid and have built our own house, barn and outbuildings. Working hard on our soil to grow lush grass, but very sparse so far.

At least we don’t live with over-spray from neighboring farms, we have clean water and hopefully air ( radiation ? )

I like this article,makes it real, Katie

Roof- that sounds like the very costume to where when answering the door to JW’s. Maybe they’ll get the hint that they’re disturbing us, or as you put it, disrupting our serenity.

Your place sounds wonderful, Beth, and you are very lucky. My husband, whom I love very much, and I have made a compromise, so we live on a quarter acre in a bedroom community south of a largish city. I finally got my chickens installed last week. The area in which I live is full of birds, for which I’m grateful, because I love birdsong. Right now I’m listening to something pretty and watching the gold finches and red-headed House finches enjoy the seeding kale that I really need to get to today. It’s not the country, but it’s the best I can do, and I still consider myself darn lucky to have it.

It seems like there is much discussion (confusion?) about what a farmer is these days. Of course you are a farmer! Like the ranches out west that are varied in what they specialize in, there are many types of farmers– from agri-giants, to small-scale urban, self-reliant, to tree farmers.

Perhaps the one thing in common that is shared is the connection of working daily on the land. Well, I guess the CAFOs don’t rightly deserve to be called farmers anymore, by this definition. Beth, great post.

Roof, you made me laugh!

Peace is also the most important thing for me. Kristofferson pretty much nailed it when he wrote freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose. Sometimes in the warmer months I’ll sit on my deck waiting for light to come, and listen to my orchestra warm up as I sip coffee. The birds always have the same sequence, except if someone is passing through.

Sorry if I sound like a curmudgeon toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they disrupt my serenity. I walk up to the road every morning to get my paper, and my driveway is 100 yards around a hill of old growth trees; it sometimes takes me 45 minutes, round trip. I’ve found morels, a box turtle, sometimes a deer will snort at me: every day is different. Last summer, it was very warm, and I decided to take a chance and I walked up in my Crocs and tighty whiteys. No one could see me except animals, so what’s the harm? I’m within 10 yards of the road, thinking what a great idea this was, when a gold Accord pulls into my driveway. I know EXACTLY what the deer in the headlights thinks. I’m thinking, this is really awkward, they’re just turning around. You’ve guessed by now they were J.W., and after maybe 20 seconds this really pretty young lady gets out of the passenger side with her literature. That’s when the war started. Not in MY damn driveway, and I have the confidence that only clean underwear can give. I haven’t seen myself on Youtube, so they didn’t have cell phones.

It sounds like you have a great place and great family. I’d call it farming. You are a very good writer.

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