After a brief visit to this little farm in Southern Washington State I close my eyes and picture George Orwell and Harold Ramis deep in conversation over a bottle of homemade cider in the tiny farmhouse kitchen. In the background a crusty old boar and two small piglets are assembling other farm animals for a meeting, whilst a shaggy Larry Kroger type, beer in hand and blunt behind ear, looks on through glassy eyes.
But these parallel lines are drawn only in my head. The farm that Scott Snair is working is no dystopian allegory, nor a rowdy and foul-smelling frat house. No, this is a real farm where real work happens. Scott, one of our principal characters, takes the practice of traditional farming and homesteading very seriously. Steeped in a work ethic befitting a central Pennsylvanian, his vision is to be more self reliant by growing and rearing his own food, although it’s still early-days and it’s good a thing Safeway is just a few vartleks away.
Last week the entire What Moves You? crew (all three of us) spent the first sunny days in November on the farm, getting to know Scott, his roommate and co-homesteader Mary Anne, and their menagerie of barnyard friends a little better. After the grand tour we interviewed Scott in the modest storage-shed-turned-homestead that they built as a home. They spent the first three months on the farm living in tents while they finished the farmhouse. They also built the barn and renovated several other buildings on the farm, all with their own hands.
Scott grew up in the shadow of 3 Mile Island in an industrial town aptly called Mechanicsburg, PA. So it’s not at all surprising that he, his brother and his father are all talented mechanics. In fact, we got to witness his automotive adroitness first hand when he “tinkered” with and started the old farm tractor long since left for dead. Scott’s wanderlust for adventure and self-reliance led him to throw a duffle with his belongings over his shoulder and set off on an epic sojourn across the continental United States that would take him from Maine to Alaska.
A love of the outdoors and all things weird is how Scott ended up in the pacific northwest and Portland. After a few years of working for the forest service, salmon fishing for a living he discovered his true calling. “I always joked that I wanted to retire by age 25, with absolutely no plan on how to accomplish it”. Scott reflected on that a lot over the last few years and realized he spent the vast majority of his money on food and shelter. “These are basic human needs that have a couple of routes to achieve. I’ve decided the capitalist approach isn’t for me anymore. I would rather spend my time growing and building my life, than working all day to buy it.”
Scott’s wicked sense of humor is also clearly influenced by his working class roots. He played a small prank on us before we left the farm that did not actually “kick” in until we were back in Portland. A word to the wise; if you ever get a chance to visit “Crazy Scott” on his farm in Washington, do it – just don’t eat the brownies.
Orwell and Ramis would be proud.
Learn more about Scott and Mary Anne’s agricultural trevails here: http://www.plantsvshumans.com