Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Oil and water don’t mix. Remember all the old western movies where sheep herders and cattlemen were always at odds over grazing grounds? Well, sometimes this difference of opinion or lack of understanding on both parts exists between farmers and non-farmers trying to co-exist in today’s world.

It used to be that a farming community was just that — a farming community. Everyone was working toward the same goals and understood each other’s way of life, heartaches, worries, and tribulations. Then, slowly, suburbanites and city dwellers who longed for a quieter and more peaceful way of life started to build homes and encroach upon the farming community.

Most of the time this arrangement works fine; with new country dwellers anxious to learn about the farming way of life and to see where their food actually comes from. Farmers usually go about their business without disturbing their new neighbors. Most of the time this is the case, but there are times when disagreements escalate into community wars, usually because of simple misunderstandings that could have been avoided with just a little forethought.

Most everyone knows that farming is in my blood and I have a soft spot for farmers. They are a different breed and look at things a little differently from the rest of the world. Being stewards of the land, they are usually the salt-of-the-earth, simplistic, say-it-like-it is sort of folks. By the same token, most of them come from generations of farmers and assume that everyone knows their way of life. There lies the problem.

Recently, a farmer spread hog manure on his land. This by-product of swine operations makes excellent fertilizer and is much cheaper than commercial fertilizer. So it just makes sense to spread and work it into the land. However, the downside is that it stinks to well…you know where. Depending on the type and amount this can be pretty potent and overpowering. Many newcomers to country living don’t understand why the farmer would do this and why they have to put up with it.

Yes, the farmer has a perfect right to use this procedure, especially on his land. He probably never gave it a second thought since this is part of his lifestyle. Though with just a little forethought on his part he could have avoided a confrontation by mentioning and explaining to the city neighbor before he proceeded with the spreading. As it was, the neighbor worried that this may be an ongoing thing and wondered if he had located in the wrong spot.

The same is true of herbicides and pesticides that the farmer sprays to control weeds and bugs. Most farmers are conscientious about when and where they spray. They can control where their spray is directed and most do not spray when it is windy anyway because they don’t want to waste what they have had to buy. However, accidents do happen and sometimes the spray will get onto a neighbor’s garden or other ornamentals and either kill or severely stunt them.

Yes, accidents happen. There is no turning back; the only thing to do is to own up and offer to replace or pay for damaged plants. This happened with my parents’ raspberry plants years ago. Spray accidentally killed them, but the farmer refused to take responsibility. The whole matter ended up in court, which cost both parties extra time and money, not to mention added aggravation.

Of course, there are things that homeowners can do to help avoid these situations. Realize that farmers do spray their fields, sometimes multiple times during the season depending on the crop that they are raising. Make sure your garden, fruit trees, shrubs, and other plants are far enough away from the fields so that in case of an accident they will not be affected. The farmers that farm my land actually refrain from spraying to the edge of their field just to make sure my yard and garden are not affected. To them an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

For you newcomers to the farming community, understand that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Things are different from the city and suburbs. After all, that is why you left; because you wanted a change. Embrace the difference and, if something seems not right or you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to approach the farmer and ask. After all, he’s probably been doing the same thing for many years and it is just commonplace for him.

Communication is the key. Most every farmer I know loves to talk and “spread the knowledge” about cultivating and living on the land he loves. However, I know of no farmer who likes to spread this knowledge during planting or harvest season. These are crunch times for him and he is only in one mode…Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! I dare say that even their families don’t ask them any more than they have to during this time. They become different creatures altogether, so wait until their world returns to normal.

The world is getting smaller all the time, and so is the countryside. It no longer belongs solely to farmers. More and more people from all walks of life and all lifestyles are seeking the peace and tranquility of the country. It can be a pleasant co-existence for everyone if we all give a little more and take a little less. With a little consideration on both sides, no one will have to ask “Why can’t we all just get along?”

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