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Sep/Oct 2006 – Items in the Lesser Farm Crisis: Farm Names

We are well into week five of searching for a new name for the family farm and still have nothing to show for our efforts but the embarrassment of sharing bad ideas. So far, all suggestions sound like cemeteries or organic butter co-ops: Hill View Farm, West Wind Farm, Western Slope Farm. My father-in-law, a retired economist and serial realist, suggested Money Sucking Farm but that was voted down as too cynical.

Actually, the farm’s current name—Lamb’s Leap—is quite good but only if you understand it has nothing to do with our frolicking sheep. It honours a certain Mr Lamb, who eliminated himself years ago while towing logs with his car. Evidently Mr Lamb backed off the 120 ft bluff on the farm’s southeast side and vanished into the sea. As I say, it’s a good name but only if you know the whole account. Try explaining that story 20 times a day at a farmer’s market and you can understand why we might seek an alternative. There is a tradition in farm names which dictate that they must be sturdy, somber and earthy—suggesting that everyone on the farm is utterly stalwart, good to honour a contract on nothing more than a handshake, and has never Googled “string bikini.” Here’s the convention: any landscape term is fine (dale, glen, vale, valley, pond, creek), as are words suggesting pleasing emotional states (happy, laughing, pleasant, cheery). To concoct a traditional farm name, simply pair one of the latter with one of the former: pleasant valley, happy glen, and so on. They have all the creativity and pizzaz of a 4-H fundraiser hot dog.

This rural tradition should be ditched. It may, in fact, be one small reason for the urban/rural disconnect. Rock bands long ago shed the self-indulgent, precious names of the 1970s and 1980s (think Loverboy, Bachman Turner Overdrive) for witty, lighthearted names (think Bare Naked Ladies, Buck Sixty Nine). Table sauces have evolved from the fusty HP to include names like Train Wreck and Armageddon. And the most vibrant businesses today are not the General Motors of the world but rather the irreverent Yahoos. Why can’t farm names undergo the same transformation? Could it be that they are indicative of an outdated and fanciful notion about what life in the country is really like?

With some of the best words in the English language stemming from agriculture (“tilth”, “egg”, “withers”) there is no reason why farms shouldn’t be more creatively named. Or, perhaps all that is needed to concoct a new generation of farm name is to replace the conventional formulation with something hipper and, actually, more reflective of the reality of rural life. Combine any of the following typical emotional/physical states (stressed out, angry, desperate, thistleshocked,sore back, infected thumb) with more traditional words (acres, flats, hill, meadow, gulch)

Easy as falling off a bluff, no?