Modern Farmer is a magazine which is easy on the eyes, but difficult on the arse. I have been reading homestead-y publications for a decade of years now, and subsequently wiping my bum with them for four. I may not be the modern farmer of sorts contained in its pages, but I know good butt fodder when I handle it, and this magazine is far too slick and glossy for any type of practical use. For eight bucks an issue, I ought to be able to wipe my ass with it, because there is no other way that Modern Farmer can possibly make my day-to-day operations smooth. The way some farmers can look at some hay and instantly know the feed and economic value of it: that’s what my ass does with magazines. My ass thinks Countryside is like the Charmin of the magazine world.
Modern Farmer does, however, make nice eye candy, which meets some of my criteria for what type of rag to throw into the privy. The photos are pretty good, particularly those of livestock that look like they were shot in a studio. You never have to see animals standing around in their own poo, or fighting each other. The farmers are all pretty sexy, some authentically so, others in a Golf Digest sorta way. They don’t show their butts though. Historically, farmers have been a butt-less lot. Not all of them though. I know of a few bootylicious farmers, but the rest all look like frogs standing up. None of the featured farmers show any sign of gaping wounds, severe sunburn, or the other varieties of grime and injury that occur when a person develops a day to day relationship with a piece of land. It might make more sense for this magazine to be called Sexy Farmer. If I were the editor of Sexy Farmer, I’d be publishing submissions from folks who look like they fell out the back of a sugar beet harvester. I’d take Joel Salatin out, though.
The real problem with Modern Farmer, other than the butt slicing sharpness of its paper, is the content. And the grim materialism. One article I read was called “The Definitive Guide to Raising Alpacas”. It did not explain how to fence the damn things, nor did it mention that as far as a coyote is concerned, an alpaca is giant, walking throat. The article, which clearly states there is no potential market for alpaca wool in the U.S., makes raising these critters seem like an obviously fun and rewarding lifestyle. I’m sure it is, too. I sometimes get flack from cow people about raising goats. Clearly only a fool would raise goats they say. At least I get some tasty cheese. Probably better than some of that cheese they feature in Modern Farmer. Is our cheese worth $20 an ounce? Naw. No cheese is. That’s highway robbery. But a $250 pair of muck boots? That hurts my head. We got a local store here that sells new boots for $13. You can only duct tape them so many times before the muck fills them in earnest.
Look folks, I think it is a fine idea for people to feel inspired and encouraged to hop on the sustainable farming bandwagon, and Modern Farmer does a good job of making that look attractive. Too attractive, and too easy. And if aspiring farmers get the idea that what we do is drop a coupla big bills on muck boots, or that nettles are worth their weight in gold, there’s gonna be a lot of people going back to their day jobs. Farming is more often than not a struggle with elements and economics. Try and do it sustainably, and a whole other laundry list of challenges will arise. It ain’t easy. It’ll leave ya with more than just dirt under your fingernails. You’ll certainly get shit on your shoe. Sometimes in it. Maybe when the GQ city-billies start showing up on our door looking to pay $8 a dozen for duck eggs, I’ll be able to rest my spine a little bit, kick back, and order that hundred dollar artisan egg basket, while I track the goats on an iPhone. But this is Northeast Missouri, and I’ve got some mud to slip and fall in.