Families on Small Farms: Case Studies in Human Ecology

By M. Suzanne Sontag; Margaret M. Bubolz | Go to book overview

5 THE SINCLAIRS' FIRST YEAR: A TIME OF TRANSITION AND LEARNING

How did the Sinclairs function in and adapt to their new environment after they moved to the farm? What problems did they face? What were critical decisions and necessary, tasks? How were these implemented and accomplished?

The entire first year on the farm was a time of transition and adaptation. In any newly chosen venture, survival is an ultimate goal. Ability to adapt to changes in the environment and to inevitable stressors is a precondition to survival. For the Sinclairs, the first year on the farm was one of significant adaptation to farming, new off-farm work, and a new environment. During this period they found jobs, got their farm enterprises going, made their home and surroundings livable, and initiated relationships in the community. They also learned more about the researchers, other project personnel, and what was expected of them as research participants.

The length of the transition period could not be predicted in advance of the study. On the basis of our data analysis, it became clear that it was approximately one year in duration.1 It took Ted eight months before he obtained a permanent, full-time position with benefits and a few months longer before he was fully trained in his new position. In addition, farming is based on biological cycles and seasonal rhythms. It was necessary to go through a complete cycle of planning for, planting, growing, harvesting, selling, and using crops or securing, breeding, raising, and selling or using livestock in order to see the outputs and consequences of inputs made. In several interviews during the first year, the Sinclairs emphasized the importance of having actual, concrete experience in farming as a basis for future planning and actions.

On the basis of our analysis we have identified major tasks and central processes for the Sinclairs during the transition year. The tasks and processes

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