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This could be the year: Recollections of Great Recession trucking side gigs, successes and failures

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Updated Jul 11, 2022

Spring in Indiana is a great deceiver. At the first 75-degree day, a wave of pathological optimism overtakes me. Drunk with hope and warmth, I fancy myself, once again, a small farmer. I blame it all on Joel Salatin's "You Can Farm," an inspirational tome that tells anyone of any age and background, with any amount of acreage, that they too can supplement their living as a small farmer. This became a gateway book for me, followed by his "Pastured Poultry Profit$," then "Folks, This Ain't Normal."

To make my indoctrination complete, there were three viewings of Michael Pollan's " Food, Inc." documentary, in which Salatin himself appears as the main protagonist, the environmentally responsible farmer who was going against the corporate food production models that were killing us all.

We were in the midst of the Great Recession then, work was slow, and I was casting about for answers. 

Things reached a head in '08 when I made the leap of the true believer. I was deeply in debt with a slew of judgements against me due to a serious wreck I had been in on April 9, 2001, a story I told in part in Episode 7 of the Over the Road podcast. After liquidating my anemic 401k to avoid imminent bankruptcy, I wound up spending a portion of that illicit windfall on electric poultry fencing, tomato stakes, eighty laying hens, plastic mulch, eight hundred tomato plants, three kinds of fertilizer, waterers, feeders, irrigation tape and twine.

We would raise staked tomatoes, pastured eggs and bottle calves. We would create synergy and symbiosis, just like old Joel Salatin himself, using the manure from the chickens and cows to enrich the soil. The Youtube phenomenon was full-tilt, and I was becoming indoctrinated online in everything an aspiring tomato grower and free range egg rancher should know. The farm-to-table movement had found me. It reached out through the screen of my wife Denise's Dell desktop, and bade me to join.

weeds where a garden once stoodLittle remains of the Marhoefers' 2008-'09 venture other than this small garden, where last season's dried-up remnants are pictured headed into Spring.

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