05/19/2011 01:35 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

This Is Not My Hobby: Backyard Farming Deserves a Better Title

I am starting to cringe every time I hear the phrase "hobby farm." I just hate the assumptions that surround the words, circling it like confused sharks. The idea that your backyard farm or small rural acreage is equivalent to your Tuesday night bowling team or bird-watching club really gets me. It is so much more.

Regardless of scale, growing food is a skill and a blessing. It is a timeless and honorable occupation that can do nothing but benefit the practitioner. This is true on every level: literally, socially, physically, emotionally. The work of raising animals, grains, fruits, eggs, fungi, fish and vegetables for your table is above the yoga classes and golf clubs. It is creating the source of your existence. It is learning to produce the energy that keeps you alive to practice yoga.

Calling people who grow food part-time "hobby farmers" is like calling people in the National Guard "hobby soldiers." Most people would never dare peg the people who might give their lives to protect their country such an aloof term. The stakes are too high. When it comes to creating food, I feel the same way. And while the accountant down the street with the two-acre dairy goat and vegetable operation hasn't quit his day job, he still is providing food for your community. He deserves a higher title than "hobby." He is a farmer, end of story. He may be other things as well, but if he is making cheese and squash, he is learning a skill and providing a product to help keep all of us alive. The soldier might die for us, but the farmer lives for us.

I have sweat buckets and tore muscles. I have walked through snowstorms and heat waves. I have been rammed by sheep, bit by turkeys and poisoned by ivy. I drive a truck and I own a gun. I am these things, and not because they are a simple pastimes but because not doing them makes my life feel like a fabrication, some sort of stage play. An act where I go through the motions of being a human animal while the stagehands behind the scenes pull the ropes and press the levers. But I don't want to be in the show anymore, I want to know how things work, and be a source instead of a consumer. I want to know what's behind the curtain.

So those of us with part-time farms, people who subscribe (as I do) to Hobby Farms magazine and grow food even though it's not our full time job... we need to either change our title or own it in a new way. Because, this is not my hobby, darling. This is not a phase. This is not a trend, a marketing ploy or a subscription to a magazine. This is growing food.

Read more posts about starting a new farm in Upstate, NY at