I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked some version of this question in the last six months:
“Why on earth would you want to go raise pigs?”
This question is almost invariably followed by some version of,
“You’re a smart girl, you could do anything – why this? It’s hard work, you know.”
It’s a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer (at least for me) and it’s one of the reasons that I actively refrained from telling people what my husband and I were planning to do once we moved. Farming is not easy, it’s not romantic or effortless. And indeed, after the events of last week (see my husband’s excellent post, Predators, memorializing too many of our baby chickens) I have found myself wondering not a few times why we thought the whole farming thing was a good idea.
I can’t speak for my husband, of course, but I can tell you a little bit about why I agreed to undertake this new adventure with him. For me, it has to do with doing something that Matters.
Since I was young I have always had a desire to do something important, to work on things that mattered. At the time, in my own limited worldview, this desire usually involved taking the “right” classes in school, reading the “greatest” books, learning the “best” piano music. As I’ve gotten a little older, though, the things that I consider important have changed and I’ve come to realize that what I really want is to do something that makes a difference in the lives of other people.
This desire comes in large part, I believe, from the loving chidings of my mother who asked me almost daily as a child, “What have you done for someone else today?” This oft-uncomfortable question has become my watchword as an adult and I’m so grateful to her for encouraging me to think. It’s the question that ultimately impelled me to become a yoga teacher so that I can teach others about the wellness that they can find through yoga, to volunteer for causes and organizations I care about, and it’s the same question that has brought me here to Northern New Mexico to raise pigs.
I was given a deeper understanding of my desire to do good for others shortly before we left Virginia by a delightfully precocious student from one of my yoga classes at Ft. Eustis when she asked me which of the four traditional paths of yoga I follow in my own personal yoga journey. I was a bit taken aback because it’s honestly not something I’d ever thought about, but her question got me to go review my copy of Swami Vivekananda’s Pathways to Joy about the four paths of yoga. And for those of you who are acquainted with me and with the four paths of yoga, it probably comes as no surprise to you that I found that the path I tend to follow is the path of karma yoga. Swami Vivekananda describes this path as “the manner in which we realize our divinity through works and service,” and that the “attainment of freedom” comes from “unselfishness and good works” – exactly what my mama taught me when I was small.
Our new adventure, farming here in Northern New Mexico, is another for me to live my yoga. I believe that the kind of food we eat matters and I want to give others the opportunity to eat the same kind of high-quality food that I want to eat. This is the good that I can do here, even on days when my heart is breaking and I feel like giving up. But I don’t because I believe this work matters and that I’m doing something important for myself, for all our animals who depend on us, and for our community. Yes it’s hard work. No, it’s not glamorous or particularly fashionable. But it is honest work that I can take pride in, work that is meaningful to me, that fills me with purpose. As Sam Gamgee says in the film version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,
“Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding onto something…that there’s some good in this world…and it’s worth fighting for.”