Small minds should have no place here

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To the person or persons who ignored a farm’s perimeter fence and closed gate, trespassed and stole one small political sign — a mere drop in a sea of signs plastering the county for the other party — let me give you some context.

The person who put up that political sign is an 80 year old woman who has more political knowledge and experience than you will likely ever have. She has missed voting in one election, including primaries, since she turned voting age. Over the years, this same person has volunteered countless hours helping with 4-H events and manning the local farm bureau booth at the county fair. She has supported local fish fries and pancake breakfasts and volunteers her time with her church.

It’s not easy to become a farmer from scratch, but that’s pretty much what she did. Even though it took decades for local folks to stop automatically referring to the place by the previous owner’s name, she was dogged in her pursuit of a profitable sheep farm, learning through trial and error, practical experience, seminars and workshops. She has built a network of sheep farming friends all over the world.

Her own woman

Someone once referred to her as “the legendary sheep woman from Ohio,” and while we get a chuckle out of that story, it’s likely that no one else has so aptly earned the moniker. My mother is her own woman. While I do not agree with her on everything, I know she is passionate about what she believes. She is proud of who she is and what she has accomplished.

One political sign couldn’t possibly convey all of that about her, but its absence sure says a lot about the person or persons who took it.

A friend, who grew up about as far from farming as you can get, admitted recently she is all too aware she will be a political minority if she pursues a role in agriculture long term. She knows that might be a sticking point and it might make some things hard. While I would like to tell her those concerns are unfounded, I know better — and it is unfortunate. She is a lovely, generous person, who makes homemade biscuits and churns her own butter. I told her if she fed people, she might win them over that way. We laughed, but her comments have stuck with me.

Different

Differences of opinion and beliefs will exist as long as there are humans to have them. When they are used against others, they can create irreparable divisions. It’s what humans do: single out the other. It happens in the country, small towns, suburbs and cities.

During the past two presidential elections, I lived halfway across the world. It wasn’t by design. But I found it refreshing to watch from afar. I might have accomplished it again this year, if my travels hadn’t been thwarted by COVID-19. Grounded in the U.S. for this election, all I have to say is: do better. Be better. I’m not talking about how you vote. I’m talking about how you carry yourself. Anecdotally, thousands of signs for the political minority are stolen in my home county every election. I’m sure the same is true, in reverse, in areas where the political allegiances are flip flopped.

What does that accomplish? It certainly doesn’t change someone’s vote. Especially if that person was the one who put up the sign in the first place. It implies what that person believes doesn’t matter and doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged.

Down, not out

Deeper implications aside, stealing a political sign is a punishable offense. Not only is it theft, it’s trespassing on private property. And to the person or persons who took the first one: I’m guessing you didn’t meet the livestock guardian dogs that night. They’re good dogs. Smart dogs. The hunters who access the woods from our property know to mind their P’s and Q’s, because the dogs see everything. One of them, Maya, once convinced an adult man to put down his chain saw with just a look. He was allowed on our property, but she wanted to verify his authenticity.

She takes after her father in that regard. One time, someone tried to steal a generator and power tools from her breeder’s place, in Maine. Maya’s father acquired a pair of chain saw chaps instead. That’s right: The person didn’t get the generator or the power tools, and had to leave behind a pair of chaps.

When my mother first said she was going to put up her political sign behind our perimeter fence — which is electrified, by the way — we joked about the extreme measures she was taking. We’re still joking. But this time, it’s about whether we can use round bales and LED lights to make an even bigger banner in one of our pastures. My mother plans to replace the sign, one way or another.

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Farm and Dairy Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Miller was tapped to lead the newsroom in 2019. A veteran journalist, dog wrangler and traveler, she lives on a 220-acre, 325-ewe commercial sheep farm in Lisbon, Ohio, which she runs in partnership with her mother. She can be reached at 330-817-6179 or editor@farmanddairy.com.

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