Picture it: It’s a beautiful clear, blue sky accompanied by comfortable 70 degree weather. Perfect conditions for a cookout. The patio furniture is set up, classic ’80s rock is cranking from the speakers and the patriotic decor is waving in the breeze.
The enticing smell of burgers and hotdogs sizzlin’ on the grill fills the air. Your friends are pulling in the drive and you know this day is going to be perfect — wait, what’s that? What is that smell? You walk to the front of the house just in time to see your neighbor with an overtopped load of manure rolling down the road. You firmly plant your hands on your hips and give him your most intimidating glare.
Picture it: It’s a beautiful clear, blue sky accompanied by comfortable 70 degree weather, what perfect conditions to haul manure. The last of the slacker cows are making their way through the parlor and your hired hand just pulled in the drive.
The manure spreader is parked near the pit and you’ve instructed the hired hand to begin loading. You’ve stopped at the house to fill your water jug and now you’re ready to jump up in the tractor.
Traveling down the road, you see the neighbor’s house all decked out in red, white and blue and he’s standing in his yard, glaring daggers at you. Groaning, you think, “Oh no, this isn’t gonna go over well.”
Within rural communities, there are farm and non-farm families working alongside each other. Generally, both parties agree the natural beauty and serenity the country provides should be appreciated — and many of the picturesque landscapes would not be possible without farming.
The following information is intended for farmers and neighbors alike, to suggest how to build positive relationships and mutual respect.
Respect the land
Non-farmers need to understand the farm is a home and business and it should be respected. Farm ground is private property; neighbors should not trespass with recreational vehicles, with horses or on foot unless given permission. Trespassing without permission can lead to damaged crops, fences, and relationships.
If you are granted permission to trespass or hunt on their property, notify the farmer of the day and be sure to keep a respectful attitude toward the family, pets, livestock and property lines.
There is also the matter of biosecurity, which is defined as “management practices that protect resident animals from the introduction of infectious agents harmful to animal health.” Farmers must protect their livestock and protect visitors.
This is accomplished at many farms by installing fences and gates with signs announcing the biosecure area.
If you live near a farm, I’m sure you’ve experienced less-than-desirable odors. Wherever animals are raised, there is sure to be manure. While you may find the odors to be very offensive, the farmer considers the product to be extremely valuable due to the nutrient content.
These nutrients are recycled through land application and sometimes incorporated into the soil for better absorption. Odors in the air from land application should dissipate within a few days.
Farm equipment can be large and noisy. Small windows of time for planting and harvesting crops mean farmers are running this equipment from early morning to long after you’ve gone to bed. It is sometimes a necessary evil of farming, but the good news is that it doesn’t last too long.
Many crop fields are not connected, meaning the large equipment has to be transported on the road. The best advice to avoiding an accident is to be respectful of the farmer and use common sense navigating in traffic situations.
Farmers have complex businesses that require year-round attention and care. Showing an interest in the farming lifestyle can do wonders for attitudes and relationships among neighbors.
Ask a farmer about an agriculture topic, and you would be amazed what a farmer can teach you. Take advantage of local events showcasing agriculture where farmers have the opportunity to interact with and educate the public.
Think before acting
Farmers have an equal part in maintaining positive relationships among neighbors and it boils down to — you guessed it — respect. Being a good neighbor means you are ensuring the future success of agricultural businesses.
Give some thought to the farming practices that you implement to reduce frustration on both sides. As the opening example demonstrates, farmers should avoid spreading manure on holiday weekends.
Nobody wants to have an outdoor gathering surrounded by the smell of methane, so ask neighbors to inform you when they are planning to have guests outside. Likewise, you can notify the neighbor when you plan to spread manure to avoid “the glare.” Compile a list of phone numbers to make notification a simple task.
While working at soil and water, I often hear the phrase “people tend to smell with their eyes” which basically means that people tend to make assumptions about management based on appearances. Stay current with simple visual improvements such as mowing and painting by enlisting summer help from teens.
Farmers can sidestep false judgment by implementing environmentally friendly methods such as incorporating manure and having properly designed and maintained manure storage facilities.
Careful design and maintenance can minimize runoff issues and odors. If you drop or spill it on the road, clean it up.
Meet you neighbors
If you are doing everything by the book and your neighbor still questions your procedures, it could very well be that they don’t understand the reasoning behind the practice.
Invite them over and give a brief explanation of why each activity is important and you’re not just in the business to make money and create bad odors.
If you plant a small vegetable or sweet corn patch, invite neighbor kids over to help prepare and maintain the crop; they will feel connected to the farming community. When the vegetables are ready, they will have earned their share and an experience that will last.
Hopefully the one-on-one interaction will allow you to get to know your neighbor and they will feel more comfortable contacting you directly when a concern arises.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and even after all your preventative efforts, conflicts may still occur. Your best bet for dealing with conflicts is to respond directly to your neighbor in a prompt and calm manner.
Select a neutral location for discussion, listen carefully and try to understand their concern. It is important to work together to provide solutions and choose the most workable option for both parties. Be sure to establish a way to evaluate the solution.
If the problem is serious enough and resurfaces, you may have to start over with new solutions or the less desirable solution could be legal action.
Rural neighbors can experience a rewarding lifestyle through understanding and tolerance. Maintaining a positive relationship and mutual respect for one another could prove to be one of the most important aspects in an ever-changing agriculture environment.
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