The phrase ‘simple living’ is a drastic misnomer.  It isn’t as simple as you think.  In fact, it truly does take quite a bit of education to do it well. People who have chosen to live a simple life may not have a college degree, but they are probably better educated than the person behind the desk in a corner office.

In college, some of my undergraduate courses included Math, English, Business Administration, Economics and a Science, just to name a few.  Whether those who choose to live simply have ever been to college or not, these are also ‘courses’ they have had to take to get where they are.

Math – basic arithmetic is a definite need on any farm.  You not only have to be able to balance your own checkbook, but you need to be able to create a budget.  Fractions and measurements are required knowledge to do just about anything: build a barn, preserve your own foods, gardening, etc.  If you don’t know basic math – and in many cases, advanced math, geometry and algebra – you may want to rethink farming as an occupation.

English – As much research as many farmers do, reading and writing is absolutely necessary.  You also need to know how to compose a letter, draft business plan and keep detailed lists.  Anyone who raises animals needs to keep accurate records.

Business Administration – A smart farmer runs his place the same way he would a business.  In the world of farming, there are rules, regulations and laws that must be adhered to in order to sell what is produced.  In some cases, there are even sales taxes that must be reported and paid.

Economics – This is basically defined as how’ scarce resources are used to produce valuable commodities in order to distribute them among different people.’*  Although the primary goal of living simply is to feed your family from sources on your farm (vegetable/herb/fruit gardens; animals; animal byproducts such as dairy items and eggs), many farmers sell their surplus.  In a market that is saturated with fresh tomatoes, some farmers become quite adept at searching for niche markets – such as lavender or salad greens – to add income to their bottom line.  They have to know what people want, and find a way to provide it.

Science – Do you think you can just toss a few seeds in the dirt and end up producing a bountiful harvest?  Do you just toss a chicken in a coop, throw out a bit of feed every now and then, and end up with quality meat, eggs or dairy products?  Not hardly.  If you want to garden, you have to have an understanding of how plants grow and the health of the soil they are planted in.  If you want delicious meat, or sell those calves for a decent amount, you definitely need to know the proper way to care for them.

This just skims the surface.  It doesn’t even really cover everything you need to know to successfully live a simple life.  But it hopefully gives you the understanding that, just because one of our fundamental tools is a hoe, and not a stylus, doesn’t mean that we aren’t very well educated.  In fact, if you look really closely, most farmers truly are…

Outstanding in their fields…of study.

* Definition (paraphrased by me) from dictionary.com

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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