A funny thing happened on the way to filing this years taxes...we made a profit.
It's quite the shocker. After leaving my over 3 decades long nursing career, 16 months ago and coming home to work full time on the farm, we expected bankruptcy. But we did it anyway. We felt that to call ourselves sustainable, we needed to put our money where our mouths were.
"Our money", specifically was $70,000 worth of salary and benefits. In order to replace that income, the income we had grown accustomed to having, ( and sadly, spending) I would have to work extra hard to build our farm business and earn the right to work at home. In my head I had to earn it, it's a Catholic thing.
So, sitting in the tax mans office a few days ago, watching him add and subtract, deduct and itemize, enunciate and depreciate, we were elated to discover at end of year our bottom line (income minus expenses basically) was $8000! Our first feeling was sheer joy. We managed to support ourselves and our farm, on our farm income alone. We managed to pay all our bills due. We managed to pay off some debt. We manged to feed ourselves AND our animals. We felt giddy with accomplishment.
Then we did the math.
Follow along, it will great fun. $8000 divided by two farmers is $4000. Divided by 52 weeks is $76.92 per week divided by approximate work hours of 80 per week (about 11 hours a day which is fair since some days are shorter and many are longer) equals .96 cents per hour.
Yup, we each earned simplistically speaking. 96 cents an hour this past year. In addition there was no health plan, no paid vacation, no sick time, no company Christmas party. The last time I made that little I was 10 and delivering the Chicago Tribune on my blue Schwinn with the dual back baskets. Suddenly all the hot air came rushing out of our balloons.
Really? We got up early and went to bed late for just 96 cents an hour? We risked lawsuits from possible illness related to consumption of our milk and meat for just 96 cents an hour? We wrestled with live animals that could kick in our brains and break our bones for just 96 cents an hour? We shoveled manure, spread manure, smelled like manure for just 96 cents an hour?
Yes, we did.
We also were given the tools to teach our grandchildren about life and death and the intense protective nature of female livestock all for free. We were gifted with outdoor weather of brilliant sunshine, soft rains, warm breezes all for free. We were blessed with the kindness of other farmers, the loyalty of our customers, the encouragement of neighbors all for free. We were granted time for walks and talks and serious balks that only couples who farm together usually receive, all for free.
We also learned the most valuable lesson of all; that a farmers "worth" should never be measured by something as meaningless as 3 quarters, two dimes, and one copper penny.