THE VITALITY OF PROTECTING ‘THE FARM WAY OF LIFE’ ~
I have lived on farms all my life in three different geographies across the U.S. My husband too was raised in the dense-evergreen-tree-laden-lake-riddled foothills of the western slope of the Rockies. We both have known throughout our lives what hard work, cold crisp early mornings, babies be they livestock or wild, logs for heat, gardens for food, hunting, fishing and trapping for sustainance, all mean.
We’ve both stopped along our beaten paths as children to touch the tree bark, smell the honeysuckle, skip rocks counting ringlets heading towards somewhere as we try to win a bet with our best friend. We’ve each grown up with a sense of awe of both nature and farms; equal in its impact upon our lives now as our siblings, our careers and our own children. The ‘obvious’ touches us all; families, homes, toys and ‘things’. But, the ‘less obvious’ has been most pronounced in the eyes of my husband and I and has sculpted us both into the human beings we’ve become.
Nature does that to a person. Nature is not partial to old or young, rich or poor, English speaker or non-native. it grips us all in its majesty, strength, subtly and prose. It’s sounds lull us to sleep while profoundly and loquaciously, waking us up. It’s visual scene sometimes subtle, can open our eyes and mind like a symphony opens our ears. It’s breathtaking beauty gives us breath and strips us of breath simultaneously, like that first spark kindled and now awakening of lovestruck teenagers gushing at their first real rush of living; where breath seems suspended for a time. So to is life on a farm. Deep in meaning and memories, profound in lessons, rich in love and equally painful in loss along the way. Lost horses to colic, aged milking does, putting down the first doe ever bought. The suprising death one morning in the pasture as the new lamb found is dismembered by a coyote and left broken and gone. The farmer’s heart breaks, chest crushed as we grasp for breath. So to along the way, are newborns delivered as you assist the mama. Baby goats jumping and frolicking so cute they win the cuteness award competing against every other animal species on the planet. Your grandson touching, hugging and loving his first chicken and goat, forever more saying ‘tractor’ ‘tractor’ and sneaking around the corner to hop into Grandpa’s tractor when no one is looking.
Farm life teaches all of us so much about life. It grounds us in the earth and re-awakens a simpler better way to be. It shows us how to love and it teaches us about loss. It is a case study on pervasive killers such as ivy taking over a tree, teaching us that things like crony capitalism can kill a sturdy tree, in time as well. Its a case study too that water can cut through rock, like our youth can change the status quo with equal effect/affect, if they too have that same nature-defined enduring will.
It is a tragedy that in our nation’s lawfulness (so many laws) in an effort to ‘protect’, we are surrendering ‘farm life’ and sending it into the bowels of legal infamy. Not many know this fact other than the farmer. But now, with nuisance laws around the country many sounds and smells of a farm are now illegal or at a minimum, in violation of ‘codes’ with steep fines and even animal confiscation. A majority of farmers can no longer have tours on their farm due to lawsuits over 1) a child touching an electric fence, 2) an elderly woman tripping over a stick, 3) animals are being removed from farms for ‘cruelty’ due to a frozen water bucket in -30 degree weather. These are just a few of examples of the legal litany taking place in America today. Of course the water bucket freezes, but the farmer breaks the ice. The passerby who calls the cops doesn’t know that though; yet the calls come in, and come in and come in.
We had an experience opening up our farm to over 70 children and parents for a farm open house this spring. We had to have them all sign waivers that stated they understood the risks of farm life. We had signs posted everywhere to not feed the animals, wash your hands, do not get in the animal pens, do not touch electric fence, do not go anywhere on the farm without a tour guide, etc. We were still incredibly liable should an incident happen. The parents, in general, did very well handling their kids. But, in truth, the concept of kids ‘running around on a farm’ which we all were raised with as kids and the nostalgia of ‘farm life’ did cause kids to run around, climb the dirt piles, enter the pens, have parents have their babies touch the horses mouths (little fingers sure look like carrots to horses) and simply roam the farm, even after a 10 minute ‘safety session’ before the tour. This is the case on almost every farm tour anymore in America. The risks and lawsuits are simply too high for farmers and more and more insurers are refusing to provide Agri-tourism insurance, or if they do, it is insanely high for the farmer, all for ‘free tours’.
We encourage parents to get educated. First, farm life is a valuable way of life for you and your kids. So, here’s what you do.
- Engage in your community to support farm protections in your local nuisance laws.
- Meet your farmers in the area and express support for their farms.
- Have a community group engage with the farmer and help pay the insurance as a split of those costs across the community so that farmers CAN open up their farms to the community once again.
- Agree to sign a waiver to remove the risk to the farmer.
- If you are a lawyer, volunteer your legal expertise to your local farmers.
- If you so love farming, stand up a little farm yourself, on your own land, for you and your family to truly experience micro-farm life.
- Get engaged with farm associations to hold your politicians at local, county, state and federal levels accountable to the local small diversified farming operations, not just big agri-business.
- Simply let your local farmer know you care and want to get educated.
Farm life is a vital part of American heritage and a key learning/experiencing platform for our kids. we encourage you to get engaged and help promote and protect your local farms.
God Bless !