Another brilliant, heart warming, wise comment from Hardscrabble Farmer that deserves its own post. This is why we have to keep TBP alive.


I sometimes wonder if, when we look back on this particular time in history, we will realize the sacrifices made in the name of wealth.

My own father is one of the most brilliant men that I know. He was one of the developers of a pivotal computer language in the early 1960′s. He had no degree, simply a desire to provide for his family and a mind that was made for solving problems. His love of music, literature, art and nature provided me with the kind of childhood that most people could only dream of and though he did well financially, we lived simply. About ten years into his career he discovered that the higher he climbed in the corporate world, the more profoundly dissatisfied he became with his life and one day out of the blue he decided to chuck it all and open a small shop in the University town where we lived that sold high quality, locally produced food. Mind you this was in the 1970′s, way before anyone used the term organic. He was known locally as the health food nut.

As I grew up I noticed that the fathers of my friends were all wealthy, owned big homes with tennis courts and indoor pools, traveled the world on holidays and sent their children to the finest schools, but none of them appeared to be happy. They were grumpy, distracted, miserable pricks whose sons hated them, whose wives cheated on them and whose lives were built on their acquisitions. My father, on the other hand was well respected by a huge number of people who loved to engage him in discussions on virtually any topic- professors, politicians, economists, pot growers, cops, headmasters, pyrotechnic experts, farmers and bankers. If you expressed an interest in any topic and shared it with him in casual conversation, you could count on the fact that at your next encounter my father would dig into his worn out book bag and bring out carefully clipped articles on whatever it was that had been discussed previously and almost without exception the recipient would stand there in awe of the newly discovered tidbit. It was not unusual for me to find guys like Ralph Nader drinking wine out of a juice glass in our study with my father, or to see him laughing it up with John Nash in the storeroom of his shop. He used to trade fruit smoothies to Stanley Jordan in exchange for having him hookup his pig nose amp in the store and play his unique finger tapping guitar licks for the customers long before there was a recording contract. In short, he chose to put all of his energies into living his life rather than to amassing financial instruments.

My father had the kind of intelligence you would expect from someone in the one percent, but the kind of values rarely seen outside of church yard. While other people added to their stock portfolio, he spent his money on season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and on hiking the Appalachian trail with his son.

I understand that in the world we inhabit it is virtually impossible to exist without some means of income. As self sufficient as I have become I still pay property taxes, send my children to the dentist, buy fuel for our vehicles and insurance on our home, but what I don’t have to do is be shackled to the accumulation of financial instruments- not the same thing as wealth. Prior to becoming a farmer I owned a business not far from Admin and was one of the one percent and saddled with all that comes with it- the stress, the employee problems, the taxes, the regulatory compliance, the audits, the infrastructure, the sub-contractors and vendors, and every outstretched and open palm looking for a cut. I quite literally felt like a slave to the wealth I was accumulating at the expense of my health, my sanity and even my own family. Never once did my father express an opinion about what I was doing because he knew that it was my life journey and that only my own discovery of what was important in life would be enough to affect the kind of change I would eventually have to make for the betterment of my family and myself.

Last week was a tough one- building fences, cutting timber, moving livestock onto pasture, planting, tilling, building a barn- and each night I climbed into bed physically exhausted, but comforted and surrounded by a loving family on a well tended patch of earth. On the morning of my birthday I received a card and a book from my father and when my wife called me over to give it to me I sat down in the sunshine and opened the cover and read this inscription.

To My Son on his birthday,

I am so proud that you have taken up the noblest task of all.

All my love,


I no longer have a gold plated insurance policy, don’t own a 401K, earn less than anyone in the FSA and still I feel like a wealthy man. Intelligence is indeed a predictor of income and accumulated wealth can be passed on to subsequent generations as a kickstart towards a future, but the real measure of a man is in the living of his life, the choices he makes and the consequences he lives with. I have no idea what part of the 1% sleep the sleep of the just, feel confident in the love of their wife or the respect of their children, add something to the world rather than strip something off of it, but to believe in my heart that I had been truly successful in life I would rather have that single book with its inscription than a hundred million dollars.

Imagine the kind of world we would live in if more of us felt that way.

15 thoughts on “THE NOBELEST TASK OF ALL”

  1. Thanks for publishing Admin. Such a beautiful essay, Hardscrabble. I`m going to print it out, slip it inside the Fathers Day card to my Dad.

    Thank you!

  2. Enjoyed this a lot on a Monday morning. Thanks Hardscrabble! Conjured up some nice memories of my own dear, old dad who passed in 2009. He also lived a life of meaningful friendships, and taught myself and my 4 siblings the value of a good work ethic, honesty, and integrity. We weren’t wealthy but lived a very “rich” life on 8 acres in the Virginia countryside with horses, fishing, camping and good neighbors.

  3. The man should write a book, his off the cuff comments on a semi-known website are better crafted than 99% of the crap that gets published these days.

  4. I simply don’t know how to make the leap. Or where to leap to if I could. Every time I read one of your posts, after finishing – I usually feel a short burst of wtf is it in my life that I need and how can I get that from what I love, then I realize as I suppose many do….I don’t even know what I love enough to do if I could. Its like that Petty lyric ” I woke up in between, a memory….and a dream “, over and over. I guess I’m jealous of anyone who loves what they do – really loves it, not the rewards. Now that my small business is being ground up in a declining industry and the regulations, employees, headaches are reaching new highs every year (especially the last four), I realize after reading your posts I chose poorly – and the family business is nothing I plan on allowing my children to enter. I think five generations is enough and its time for a change. Great stuff hardscrabble, keep taunting me! Maybe it’ll help me pull the fencepost outta my ass and go live, really live.

  5. HF,
    thanks so much for your comments, outside of Jim’s articles it is rare for me to not gain an incredible amountal of insight while reading and later thinking about your comments.
    of all the ones i have read, this is the finest; and that really says something.

  6. Hardscrabble

    I am always struck by your comments that you have the rare privelege to live as a man is designed to live. There are not many of you left. You build, plant and harvest, love a wife and care for a family. You don’t have to commute, sit in an office, play politics, or conform to the expectations of popular culture that wants to make you ever more irrelevant.

    The challenge for men in our culture is reaching tragic proportions. How would you advise men who don’t have the advantage of a lovely farm to work (and I don’t mean to imply that all men are wired up to be farmers) to live close to nature, be creative, find pleasure in family, enhance their spiritual lives? Your father might be a good example.

    I have many written memoirs of my ancestral generations beginning in the colonies in the 1600’s. There was so much meaningful work for the men to do and so much freedom to pursue many paths to fulfillment. Modern life seems pale and shallow by comparison.

    I wish I was more articulate this morning.

  7. I have been talking with a good friend of mine who just left for Vermont for the summer (we live in South Florida). What we concluded is both he and I (like your father) revel in doing things rather than having things. We are happy with what we have, not with what we plan to get in the future. That seems to be the major difference between being happy and always wanting more.

  8. HF…….Where to begin?

    Your essays of this ilk are like a basket of the finest, freshly picked peaches (organic of course). Your prepossessing title of the essay is the aromatic invite to reading your thoughts; the warm hues of the skin that incase the treasure within lure one to break through the barrier to savor the richness; your ‘prosa’ is the succulent nectar released with the first bite; your delivery is akin to the sweet…but not too sweet…yet comfortingly soft pulp, that when consumed and digested, nourishes the body, mind, and soul; and lastly……your final gift is at the core… armored seed of your wisdom that anyone may use to plant their very own peach tree within to nourish their Spirit and Humanness….and thus share with others.

    My belly is full!….yet satisfied. Thanks for the post.



    I soooo know what your talking about. I’m in the midst of have to change course in my life and write a new chapter.

  9. “A free man is a rare bird, and when you see one, stop, and try to figure him out– because someday when the United States of the Earth is running smooth and pretty, they’ll be more of him than we have now” Carl Sandburg The People,Yes 1936

    Air/ Water/ Food/ Rest, Activity, Sleep,Avoidance of Pain/ Safety/ Esteem/ Self-Actualization Maslow’s Priority of Needs

    “Without courage, there are no virtues. My Dad instilled this in me

  10. Whenever I read an HSF post I find up thinking about the Waltons, you know, the first movie then teevee show.

    Good night, JohnBoy

  11. Truthfully, it just all seems to revolve around food. There’s something that just feels right when you patronize a farmer who builds great soil and whose land gets better (and more productive) year after year.

    Today was food club (raw dairy, pastured meats) day. I see a profound difference in those who patronize the club, with the most profound changes occurring in those who are long time members or who buy virtually all of what they eat from it. Maybe its that it requires a complete reorientation of spending and time to cook from scratch, but the people seem, well, a whole lot happier.

    In the next 20-30 years, there’s going to be an enormous changeover in farmers as many retire. But the only ones interested in making it career seem to be those who want to run tiny micro farms where they set the lifestyle and the price.

  12. HSF is the man. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man so pure of thought and reason, common sense and practicality, compassion, common sense and filled with a proper perspective of right and wrong be a candidate for the highest office in the land. A guy like Ron Paul. I see a lot of the same traits in HSF’s writing that I see in Ron Pauls common sense approach to all things. HSF for president……………………just throwing it out there.


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