I don't find the farming life necessarily noble.
There are farmers who are noble, yes. And there are also farmers who are not noble. Noble plumbers and dental hygienists abound as well. Possibly the virtue lies in the person, not the profession.
Yet it seems that most of the articles and internet blurbs that enter my awareness lately tout this nobility of the farmer--lauding their sacred duty and whispering of their monk-like reverence to land and beast. The more skeptical potshots I've read take this view too, only adding more italicized irony. Providing the good public with club-sized daikon radishes--although organic! and fresh!--might not be the preferred face of nobility.
So I just gotta say, "Y'all, farming isn't noble."
I mean, yes--of course it can be noble. But there's more to it than that.
There are lots of ways to grow food, own land and breed animals that fly in the face of goodness, decency and integrity. There's close to a bajillion documentaries that can tell you so, and besides--have you ever heard of every single person within a global profession doing things exactly the same, in the same blameless manner?
I worry that because young liberal-arts grads (ahem) are entering agriculture (good thing) armed with a penchant for starry-eyed writing ( double ahem) and a desire to change our food culture (still a good thing), we might be dusting farming with a bit more mensch-dust than is good for it (a debatable thing).
What I do believe to be true is that many of the folks whose attraction to said ideas of integrity and goodness are the same ones who find them working outside, raising animals and planning harvests. Whether they do it on 3 acres or 3,000 these people usually have at least that in common.
That, and the same sun-in-your-eyes squint.
Our farm happens to fall in the 3 acres category (although this year we clock-in at around 9, thank-you-very-much) and we believe in growing without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, growing diversified crops and in being a farm that aims for more than just reaping a successful crop. Although I really, really want that.
Do any of those beliefs make me more noble than another farmer, or more so than a teacher, truck driver or real-estate agent? Nah. Does it make me more noble than a farmer who doesn't hold to those same beliefs? I don't think so--it means we value different things, and see different ends.
However, farming does take balls.
For farmers of all beliefs, geographies and genders, it takes balls. It takes wells of courage, for when your fields are flooded or your ewes are ill. Or worse, when the harvests fail, your plans go horribly wonky and the sky won't take your calls.
For me, I'll admit-- I do need that belief in the noble. Most of the time, my work instills it for me. Some days it's all spreadsheets and cursing, but other days I'm given a sideways glance into the positive impact our farm truly does have on others and our environment. We hold dearly to those days when we've done our job most right and see the goodness we're always after. I believe it is good to grow food in tandem with nature as much as I can, and to work to provide real foods to people in my community.
It isn't noble to farm, but I do think it's the perfect goal.