Does having three sheep make me a Shepherd?

If I have paddocks and grazing animals does that make me a farmer? Does having 3 sheep make me a shepherd, or 2 goats make me a goatherd?  Does having a colony of bees make me a beekeeper?

When, I was looking at how people come to Christian faith as adults, if they have had little or no church involvement in their childhood, I came across the concept that “one speaks to the whole”.  The experience of one person might not be the experience of everyone, but their experience contributes to an understanding of the whole. 

What am I experiencing?  I am noticing myself being aware of the weather in a different way.  From heavy rain, then strong winds around Christmas time, to sweltering heat, it’s now nearly 2 months since there has been any significant rain (actually, its been raining today a bit). I find myself, in a new way, searching the weather forecast for when the next significant rain will come.  Yes, we had plenty of grass, but now its all dried up, what sort of provisions do I need to make, for additional feed over autumn – let alone winter?  Farmers get well used to the fluctuations of the seasons but, maybe the mild anxiety I feel is also a part of the farmer’s experience through the changing seasons?

This has a relational aspect to it as well.  I can have weeks where, apart from the conversations with Miranda at the end a day, a brief chat about the weather while I order a large flat white and a cheese scone at a café, might be the only conversation I have with anyone.  To what extent is this an issue for farming people and especially for the important relationships in their lives?

Diversification is also an issue.  Bees, sheep, goats, chooks, a pig, vege garden and an orchard; I think that’s diverse! Many farmers have diversified to supply multiple income streams.  They might farm and run a catering business, or have farm visits to organise.  Some days I don’t know where to start.  Sometimes I don’t know what finishing a job looks like.  In what way is that the experience of a farmer?

So, my experiences do, in a small way, inform me of the experiences of farmers as a whole.  Considering the “one speaks to the whole”, I would not claim to know what its like for others, but my experiences can inform me as I serve in a rural community.  It gives lots of scope for curious enquiry and empathetic engagement.  Also, farmers find it amusing when I talk about our big experiences with our two goats!

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