What defines a Farmer?


  1.  a person who owns or manages a farm.
    synonyms: agriculturist, agronomist, rancher, smallholder, peasantMore

  2. historical
    a person to whom the collection of taxes was contracted for a fee.
  1. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager.
    synonyms: ranchfarmsteadplantationestate, family farm, dairy farm, hobby farmMore

  1. make one’s living by growing crops or keeping livestock.
    “he has farmed organically for five years”
    synonyms: work the land, be a farmer, cultivate the land;

    rear livestock
    “he farmed locally”
  2. send out or subcontract work to others.
    “it saves time and money to farm out some writing work to specialized companies”
    synonyms: contract out, outsourcesubcontractdelegate

    “we farmed out the warehouse construction to another firm”
    1. a firefighter.
    2. a person who tends a furnace or the fire of a steam engine or steamship; a stoker.


    For the last 5 or 6 months, I’ve been working at redefining myself. Changing my definition away from Paramedic/Firefighter towards something else. The other day a friend snearingly described me as looking “like a farmer.” I instantly denied it. “I’m not a farmer,” I thought.  But upon reflection, I have to ask, What does that even mean? Farmer. It’s thrown around quite a bit. Fireman too. The fire aspect is easy easy. My ‘dzeda’ (a child’s mispronunciation ‘dedko,’ Slovak for grandfather) retired from Republic Steel in Youngstown, OH. Worked there forever. Union man. Brutal man. He was a Fireman. Most likely started out shoveling coal into the furnace under the kettle of liquid steel. Finished up running the show when that liquid steel got poured. He KNEW fire. He understood heat and flame. His skin was scarred and ALL of his cloths were filled with holes from all the liquid metal that had splashed onto him over the decades. His work and his world defined him and his responses to his world. I wear his hunting jacket and carry his spirit.

    I have an understanding of fire and heat. Not from being a Firefighter, though one did inform the other. My fireman days were from long ago when I was a youngin down in Athens and was allowed to run wood kills full of clay pottery and sculptures. Belching smoke and flames was my life then. A fireman builds and maintains fires. Firefighters only put them out. BORING. I didn’t enjoy the firefighting aspects of Public Safety.  Didn’t relish it the way the others I served with seemed to. Whoop da doo, another burning house. Most likely not much over 1800 deg F in there. Hot to some. No where near 2300 deg F that I once fired my kills at. The bricks inside the kiln would be a blinding bright yellow in color.

    Kiln Firing
    this is not a picture of me or anyone I know but the kiln is really hot and at Ohio University. 

    The fire itself became alive as it curled through the kiln. Time seems to slow down in there. It’s a different set of rules at that temperature. A burning house can’t compete with that. The few that I went to that were “fully involved” upon arrival, meaning the entire place was burning, probably exhibited the same fire behavior in their hearts. I did not get to witness any of that. Somehow, I tended to miss most of the fires. Out of town, radio dead, tied up on an EMS call. There were those who whispered that I am “afraid of fire.” Not even close.

    This Fireman business is why I’ve gravitated towards the Rocket Mass Heater (RMH) technology. The internal temperatures won’t be as high as needed to fire stoneware, but certainly hotter than the average burning house. {diseducated guess}  The stoves themselves are just little kilns. Bricks, steel, fuel, air, smoke. These things I understand. Implicitly. I can actually hear the fire talking. It whispers FEED ME NOW!!!!! That’s what it whispers to me anyway.

    The farmer part though. I’m stumped here.  What do farmers “look like?” The ones I know are generally cleaned cut, slightly overweight, wearing baseball caps, jeans, tee-shirt,heavy boots. Cleanliness of their cloths is inversely proportional to their distance from  home. (just made this up) The farther away they are, the cleaner they are(less dirt). Dirtier when they are home. Generally. Can’t think of a single one who has long hair and giant flashed out beard. Don’t know many people at all who have that combination. A few, but not many.

    Am I a farmer because I favor Pig-pen as my favorite Peanuts character? (he always had the best ideas) I’m just a grubby guy. Not unclean as such, just dirty. That’s not to say I’ve gotten the STANK going on occasion. But the farmers I’ve known are as a rule, fairly clean. Most “so-called” men in the US don’t have beards. It seems to be almost reviled by “polite” society to allow one’s hair and beard to do what they naturally do. Most farmers cut them. A tactical decision at times for them as getting a long wispy face flag wrapped around a working PTO drops the survival rate to near zero.

    bearded saki
    This is a Bearded Saki because why the hell not?

    Farmers…Come on, lets be honest here, MEN generally don’t have beards. Thank you Peter the Great. I prefer Ivan the Terrible’s take on it. “Shaving the beard is a sin the blood of all martyrs will not wash away. It would mean blemishing the image of man as God had created him.” Just an opinion by one of the greats of history.

    So beards do not a farmer make. Whatever, I have one. I refuse to cut it again. If that means I can’t be a farmer then reality is way weirder than I realized.

    Also, before you think I failed to notice it, I won’t be collecting taxes. That’s weirderer and nauseating.

    So it’s down to growing crops and raising animals. Particularly important here is the notion that this is how they make their living. Leah countered here with the notion that this is more of a subsistence farm. (it is BLD farm after all) We don’t make a lot of money. Eggs mostly. Working on that. But I’m not limiting myself to crops and livestock. Diversifying my income streams. Is the definition broad enough to include people who make it up as they go along and happen to include both of those things in a much longer list of ‘ways to make a living?”

    hobby farming for dummies

    Briefly I was labeled as a “Hobby Farmer.” This one gives me gas. Hobby? There is really nothing Hobby-ish about shoveling out a winter’s worth of goat and chicken shit from the barn. Or the dead animal smell coming from the compost piles. Or a dead full grown pig. Leon would have retorted that “a hobby is something, an activity, that we do from which we get no return.” Here is a guy that hasn’t had a job in the almost 15 years I’ve known him. He grew up on a GIANT hog farm in Iowa. Giant farm, not giant hogs. He batted around the idea of “hobby farmers” the way a cat plays with a very dead rabbit. Hobby Farmers seem to be those folks who are transitioning (or not) away from the “I have a J.O.B.” world, towards the “I work for my living” world. Less cash, more calluses.

    Ultimately, I have no idea. Do I loose my “farmer card” if I work on someone else’s house for some cash? What if I don’t sell the things that grow at my place? Does any of this matter?

    I have a tortuous self imposed imposter complex. Not so much of one that it is detrimental to my life. (same with a minor case of ‘intermittent explosive disorder’) By this I recall talking to my fellow EMTs, asking if it felt weird to them that “we are the people who show up when someone calls 911.” They never understood. I think they never really stopped to think about it. Or at least they didn’t want to talk to me about it. That never ceased freaking me out. I was THE GUY who showed up. I was there to help? Rough spot to be sure. People look at EMTs and Paramedics and MDs and RNs as these mythical creatures. They are mostly douche bags. 10 years among them. Douchey. I never exactly felt OF them, only AMONG them. I don’t know how common this is. It has become a question of identity. I’m not that but I am this. What does any of this even mean?

    I like to eat eggs and goat meat and to set things on fire and play with mud and grass and sticks. Growing things is pretty cool. Punching a time clock can suck it.

    Does that make me a farmer?

4 thoughts on “What defines a Farmer?

  1. I AM NOT A HIPPY!!!
    Y’all can call me a lot of things, but that is one I reject. The Hippy Movement died and was buried before I was born!
    More of a Situationist actually

  2. Keep writing…! Farmer hippy born of fire ex patriate public service hero. Thanks for sharing in your transformation. You and Leah have created an excellent forum for ideas and engaging community.

  3. You can’t be a farmer if you have long hair and a beard, you’d be a hippy. Ivan the Terrible was the first hippy. The word ‘hobby’ is simply a mistake in the English language: there are only passions, harmful or not. You appear to have passions of accomplishment which border on tinkering, the creation of singular beauty, the need for many expressive media (clay, fire, 911 theater, heaters, barns, etc) because words are not enough, you need gestures and created spaces to live with and in, which relates to your imposter complex, similar to film acting and theater, (even the Greek plays), and your intermittent explosive disorder when words, script, role and passions fail to get the message across. You’re also a good teacher.

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