When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we think of new diets, gyms, or hobbies…not necessarily new lives. Yet, for some leaving the urban life behind, the farm brings more than an admirable new hobby.
As we watch the ball drop, we wonder: How far have I come? Where will I be one year from now? In this hopeful mindset, we outline resolutions and try to turn over a new leaf. A recent article by NPR’s “The Salt” (Tired Of The Seoul-Sucking Rat Race, Koreans Flock To Farming) captured a collective “new leaf” being turned over in South Korea.
South Korea is an extreme example—its rapid development has propelled what many call a “machine-like” society. Up until recently, a six-day workweek was the norm. Over 80% of the population lives in cities; though in the last year 45,000 households have relocated to the countryside, and that number is steadily increasing.
Choe Sang-Heon of Cheonan Yonam University believes this reflects an “imbalance” in his society. But this frustration with urban life has manifested itself here in the US as well. Many people see a country lifestyle as a “romantic” idea—an admirable story, but meant for someone else. Something that can be found in books such as “The Dirty Life” where Kristin Kimball, a working professional and Harvard graduate, abandons New York City for a new life on the farm (we highly recommend the book!).
For those who take the physical, financial, and social leap, the reward is often more than “romantic”. Walden’s own Kristen Kilfoyle can speak from experience. After years of working in project management in Watertown, she acted on a gap that had been growing in her life. In her Billerica house, she planted potatoes, raised rabbits, and bought a worm bin (embracing a little of both the cuddly and dirty). Today, she and her husband run a farm in New Hampshire and raise chickens and pigs for Walden. Walden’s partnership, in addition to her work with our other suppliers has helped her transition to a lifestyle she had never originally imagined.
She reflected on the strengthened “connection to life”—both her own and that of her animals. Much like Kimball, she is quick to highlight the visceral nature of the work on an emotional, spiritual, and intellectual level. “There were definitely financial tight spots…early mornings…late nights,” she muses when asked about her new life. “Some people will talk to me and say ‘you actually went for it!’…though I understand it’s hard to start over.” Many people sympathize with this yearn for nature without taking such a career, financial, and social leap. For those folks, Walden is here for you!
We’re heartened that New England is the only region steadily increasing farming. Even better, given the small size of our farms, New England’s farmers tend to be more sustainable relative to the industrial farms found in other regions. Younger generations have been actively seeking out the farming life from the start of their careers. From 2004 to 2012 Northeast universities saw a 43% average increase of undergraduates studying agriculture. Given only 5% of New England’s land is currently used for food production, (and we produce only 5% of our current beef consumption) there is plenty of room for growth.
The farming lifestyle is making a clear leap out of our romantic daydreams and into many people’s daily lives. Although our cities are not yet as saturated as those in South Korea, growing values for slow food and sustainability make it clear that we all need our own connection to the land. We are thankful for the many young farmers in New England returning to the land, helping us to realize our ambitions to feed ourselves.