Like most people who work on the land, John and I are doers. We like to be out in the field building fences, tending to cattle, trimming trees. I like to "do" by overthinking everything as well - to spend days learning all there is to know about farming cooperatives for example or to shop for the perfect washing machine for two whole days (spoiler: it doesn't exist).
We have functioned in to-do list fashion, our daily lives revolving around endless tasks that take up all of one's time, like a reality show where contestants run from task to task for no apparent reason. Sitting down to figure out our long term goals never quite moved to the top of the list; making time for planning felt like trying to herd frogs on a starry summer’s night. We may have “needed” to build a new fence, but what has been really missing is the time and commitment to evolve into successful owners of a business and not just to live task to task.
So I have decided that the go-go-go I learned from city life will not serve me any longer, no matter where I live. Trying to do too much in too little time - day after day after day - has made for an unsettled life, the perennial feeling that I "should" be somewhere else doing something different. It is high time to make decisions and stick with them and to stop doubting myself.
And so we sought help. One of the avenues we took was to sign up for mentoring with the Holistic Management Institute (HMI), a program for farmers but whose principals can be used by all. We are working with Phil Metzger (a retired soil conservationist and educator) and the process has been transformative for us, not only because we finally sat down and constructed our long term goals, but because we are learning how to use them as actual guideposts for living our lives.
Below we are sharing some of our hard work with you by posting our Holistic Goal here for all the universe to see. Each part also lists the actions and behaviors we will need to take to achieve all we desire, an important element in the Holistic Management concept. My favorite part is the Vision Statement, looking 25 years out from now, when it is time for the farm to pass to a next generation of farmers.
HOLISTIC GOAL, BEHAVIORS AND VISION STATEMENT
Whippoorwill Creek Farm is an agricultural adventure, committed to ecological, social, financial, physical and mental goals.
Ecologically, the farm will mimic natural systems as closely as possible.
To do so we must:
take care of the animals to the best of our ability without chemical use
nurture a diversity of animals and plants
manage for what we want to see present on the land, not for what we don’t want
increase the fertility of our soil
Socially, the farm will foster a rich community of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and races.
To do so we must:
inspire visitors and the local community,
invite people of all kinds to farm with us and/or to build tiny houses on the land to create a community
be a model for others aspiring to farm more sustainably and communally
be a place for family and friends to enjoy
involve other farmers from the community, allowing them to run their own businesses as part of the farm’s business model
Financially, the farm will be self sustaining.
To do so the farm must:
allow us to maintain a home, outbuildings and equipment
make enough to take time away from the farm
operate in a fashion to ensure the farm remains financially viable into the future
create a marketing plan to ensure sale of products on a regular basis
Physically and Mentally the farm will be a sanctuary for recreation, exercise, low stress and strength of spirit.
To do so we must:
practice good decision making and allow ourselves to make mistakes
spend a significant portion of our working time outside, experiencing the seasons
Twenty-five years in the future, the farm venture is a financially sustainable, living entity able to grow and change continuously. It is a well established part of the local economy and community, supporting a wide diversity of wildlife, humans and farm businesses. The ecosystem is stable and resilient, filled with life, despite the changing climate. Beth and John are seen by the farm and community as mentors who never stop learning and making the farm a better place while passing on the values, operation and land to a new generation of farmers. Beth and John are involved in decisions impacting the farm yet have stepped back from the manual labor involved and are enjoying life as they please.
So there you have it, our living, breathing, holistic goal. Perhaps putting it out there into the world will help ensure its eventual existence.