Learning to run a farmstead

I did not grow up on a rural property, although some of my childhood homes were in rural areas. My parents were city raised and I was suburbia raised.  My mother liked to garden, canned and froze delicious foods for us and kept the usual assortment of dogs, cats, birds and rodents.My closest friend from 6th grade through graduation lived on a family farm.  I am sure my endless facination with cows in the barn, milk in jugs in the back 'frig, crops in the field, market runs in the evening and customers at the farmstand was odd to that farm family. I loved being there and my memories are wonderful.

Moving to central PA opened the proverbial Pandora's Box to all sorts of rural activities. Visiting small farms, going to county fairs and reading books and magazines like Countryside and Organic Gardening began the search for the kind of farming I would like to do. Since machinery maintenence and repair is not my strong suit I knew that noisy tractors were not part of my future. Our thin soil rests on a shale ridge and our well is not productive enough to irrigate row crops so vegetable production would not be our main focus. Hi-tensile fence, electrified netting and polywire,and rotational grazing of animals all fit well into my growing skill set and tempermant.

Books and magazines, online resources, and the advice of a very active rural community are my teachers. I am so fortunate that we are in a region that has maintained, although not at its former level, farm stores, feed mills, butcher shops, equipment dealers and maintenence garages, and  farm vetrinarians. FFA (Future Farmers of America) is active  in our schools, 4H projects fill our county fairs , Lancaster Farmer reports weekly agricultural news, and PASA ( PennsylvaniaAssociation for Sustainable Agriculture) offers guidance for smaller farmsteads not necessarily researched by Penn State. Amish, Mennonite, small and large farms and people who raise a few chickens, sheep , cows or beef all are part of this rural community.  Many of those with experience are generous with their helpful advise, even in the face of our small farmstead start.