Artie Scott wrote:
When making these sorts of decisions, I tend to look at worst case and try to figure out how to mitigate risks from there...
I'm with Artie,
You are asking good questions here. Don't get carried away with the dream, because it's going to be hard. Maybe heart-breakingly hard. Make sure that VA pension is in place before making any decisions, also make sure you understand the ins and outs of the social services system in Indiana. Maybe your family can help sort that out? Finally, make sure that your marriage is strong enough to endure some serious, serious stress. My own wife's parents went "back to the land" in the early '70s. After their (uninsured) barn burned down, things went downhill fast and they ended up getting divorced. In her family, the phrase "after the barn burned down" has come to symbolize hard times and failure.
My recommendation would be to put your finances down on paper and do some worst-case scenario calculations. If you have experience with farming and raising animals, and a government stipend you can conceivably live off of, this could be a viable move. If you have no agricultural experience, and lots of kids, you are conceivably putting everyone in a very difficult position and may end up regretting it.
Also, I'm assuming you know where everyone would sleep, and that you have a little money in the bank... If the answers are "I don't know" and "not much" I would say you aren't ready for this.
Finally, when one of the kids steps on a nail or falls off a ladder, will you be able to pay the medical costs? With 7 kids, it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". Can you get free (or affordable) healthcare in Indiana?
You've got so many variables here that I suggest spending a year just putting together a business plan. Visit again and treat it like a business trip: Talk with local farmers. Talk with your family members about the hardest questions. Make sure they are as excited about this as you are - not just by what they say but by the look in their eyes when you say you are seriously considering it. What does your gut say during these discussions? Are they being honest or just trying to make you happy? Fill in all of the blanks in your business plan. Once you have that, you should have your answer. As Bill Mollison liked to say, "if you don't know what to do, don't do anything". In this case, I would say: "don't do anything until you know exactly what you are going to do." If there is no rush to make this decision, you should use that luxury of time because, once you pull that trigger, you'll have 9 mouths to feed and there won't be any time to think.
I am glad you are seeking people who are actually doing this. That said, you may find that most people who are actually supporting a large family on farming are too busy to be posting on these forums very often. ;)