If You’re Starting An Organic Farm, Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Preparing beds for planting on our organic farm; day jobs help us invest in growing the farm
having a day job has helped sustain us as we grow our organic farm

“Don’t quit your day job.”

Gosh, I used to hate that phrase.  LEAP is more my style. Leap into your dream, your idea, your goal.  Go all in.

Then I started a farm.  And oh, how I learned to love my day job.  

For the first few years, I resisted that seasonal job.  I thought: The farm should sustain us already.  I should have winters off from work, not commuting to an office.  

But I realized that running any small business is hard, and more often than not it takes many years to get established.  For the past 6 years, between my husband and I, one or both of us has held an off-farm seasonal job, from early winter to to early spring.  And these jobs have helped us sustain our lives and continue to invest in the farm.

I recently saw a statistic that people who keep their day job when they’re starting their own businesses are 33% more likely to succeed than those who go all in from the get-go.

We’re so used to hearing the story of the entrepreneur who quit her job and built a successful business with grit and persistence.  While grit and persistence are required, you don’t have to quit your day job.

“Go all in” doesn’t have to mean that you cut ties with what currently sustains you.

Life is not an either or.  It’s not black and white. It’s a garden of succession plantings.  

It’s sowing lettuce in March—when there’s still snow on the ground outside—for that first spring planting.  And then sowing it a week later, repeating this process again and again throughout the season because you want to eat salad everyday.  

What do you want in your life everyday?  What are you sowing to bring that to fruition?  

I’ll be the first to admit there are times that a succession doesn’t make it.  Summer can be a tough time to start lettuce—it prefers cool soil to germinate, and some varieties won’t germinate at all in soil above 75℉.  There have been instances we’ve left seeded trays in the greenhouse in July, only to have spotty germination that won’t fill a bed.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, a succession fails.  

CSA harvest from our first year, when we both had off-farm seasonal jobs
CSA harvest from our first year, when we both had off-farm seasonal jobs

Gardens are about abundance and the understanding that hard work isn’t enough—gentleness is meant to balance our days.  Take time to sit in the field and simply appreciate the seen and unseen parts of growth.

Do everything you can and then hand it over to nature—trust that ladybugs will eat the aphids, that microorganisms and mycelium will run beneath the soil and deliver nutrients from bed to bed, root to root.

Remember that you are part of a web, too.  

When our successions fail, we buy starts from other farmers.  And we’ve sold extra starts, too, when those farmers have needed to fill in successions of their own.  Become an active part of your community, and you’ll find these connections will sustain you, too. When everything feels hard, putting the hoe down for a bit and hanging out with other farmers is like a boost of compost for your own heart.   

And when the farm bank account feels inadequate, your day job is like a boost of compost for continued growth.  

This isn’t to say you should slow down your dreams.  It’s more about seeing things in a new way, and approaching all you do with gratitude.  Gratitude for the day job that’s allowing you to invest in the farm and save up money for your eventual transition into full-time farming.  Gratitude for each day that you get to work the soil, plant a seed, and harvest a bountiful crop.

Some days will feel like summer solstice—a burst of growth and endless days of sunshine.  And then winter solstice will come, and everything will slow. That’s okay. That’s natural.  

I’ll leave you with this:

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” -Confucius

So go to your day job.  Come home and tend to seedlings.  Allow all parts of your life to entwine and support each other.  You will bloom. And that bloom will set seeds for you to sow again.  

Good Heart Farmstead CSA pick-upIn the comments below, tell me: what dream are you working towards?  A farm?  A garden?  Something totally different that brings you joy all the same?  Writing down your goals helps bring them to fruition, so sow some seeds of intention and leave them in a comment below ?

8 thoughts on “If You’re Starting An Organic Farm, Don’t Quit Your Day Job”

  1. Katie Sullivan

    I found that I gained skills from my day-jobs that have really informed everything I’ve done with the sheep farm. Nothing like working for two different startups with two wildly different visions and budgets to get you thinking about your vision and calculating your budget! Both provided invaluable experience and useful professional connections.

    1. My day jobs have informed so much of what we do, too—from learning things to making connections to the security of having some extra income, it all adds up!

  2. I’m the office manager of a natural health center. My day job is further honing my jill-of-all-trade skills — essentially, to know everthing associated with business, from client base to marketing. I’ve always done work in different sectors of healthcare and alternative living, which I’ve shared with you over past emails and during Wisdom; however, I’ve had to re-learn skills while working with a partial permanent disability and fibromyalgia since late 2016. I’m reweaving what learn for use in my photography business.

    1. I love how you’re approaching it, Nika. Getting hands-on experience is so valuable and way more enlightening than reading about the different aspects of business. Sending so much love your way ?

  3. Thank you. It’s been a long winter and usually I have been in the fields by this date. My 200 heirloom tomato seeds have spouted and growing in my office. I don’t know when this year I can even move out to the hardening off garage. But your blog restored my faith that spring will come again and it will all be worth it. Thank you ?

    1. Oh, spring will come (I hope!) It’s a late one for us, too, and it just snowed a bit more today. I’m not sure when the sun will come back out, but it *has* to eventually. Hope your tomatoes grow well ?

    1. Oh I’m so glad this found you at the right time, Lauren ❤️ Thank you so much for reading and for all the beautiful work you do in the world.

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