There goes the seclusion, here comes another city


Have you noticed that people are longing for the country life more than ever?

It seems that after about a hundred years of working toward being as city-minded as possible, the trend has turned. Those who once longed for a penthouse overlooking the busiest city now hope they have saved enough wealth to buy a secluded place in the country. They hope to buy it from the fellow they looked down on for all those hundred years.

There are about a million ironies in this story.

The gold we have. One irony is that farmers have known all along what gold they possess. Most have treated their land with great respect and reverence. In turn, they had hoped for years to have their land counted as being worth what they knew it was worth on a banker’s list of assets, and some had just about given up.

Their land was simply deemed “tillable farm land” and looked at in a whole different light in the 1980s when farmers really needed to use that value as loan collateral in order to keep growing, to stay alive.

Southern farmer Archie Clare said, “You can look at your assets all you want, and there ain’t a bit of profit to be found. But the banks count the property, which I can’t sell. Nobody would buy it. They count your machinery and buildings, even though they aren’t worth anything to anybody but me.

“They count the house, and my tractor and truck, and Waynette’s car, but who’s going to put those things on the line? The problem is, you look at this loan sheet and it says I’m doing great. But not a damn bit of what they count produces anything we can live on, let alone pay the debt with. The truth is nobody really owns anything; you just can’t own anything these days.”

Archie’s story is told through the eyes of author Dan Butterworth in “Waiting for Rain: One farmer’s struggle to hold on to a vanishing American dream.”

Manage to hang on. Archie and other struggling farmers in the 1980s fought with bankers over the need to recognize the land as an incredible asset. Now, those who managed to hang on finally find the value recognized, but it still doesn’t give them anything to live on. Unless, that is, they sell what they love the most to those who will do the very worst thing possible with it in their eyes: grow houses, lawns, buildings of any type imaginable.

A friend told me she recently talked with an older couple who have farmed the same plot of land all their lives. He said, “I might be selling it all to a developer.” When my friend expressed shock that he would let his precious farm ground go, he said, “Hey, money talks.”

She urged him to consider future generations, to consider how hard he had worked to preserve the land and its precious, irredeemable value. He simply shrugged.

Later that same evening, they drove through a neighboring county, an area none of them had traveled through for several years. They barely recognized the community, once lush farm ground, now resembling a small city.

This man said, “Oh, my! How could anyone have done that? How could anybody let good land like this go? We all know once it’s gone out of farming, it’s gone for good.” He was angry, horrified. He didn’t recognize his own face in the mirror with those big blinders on.

Here it comes. Ironies everywhere. The developer who stands to become rich on this land does so by selling the idea of “country living in secluded area” as he chuckles all the way to the bank. The more homes he can squeeze in to that “allotment” the more money he stands to make. There goes the seclusion. Here comes another little city.

Peace and quiet, wide open spaces, the land we love – all worthy of the dream and loftiness we give to it, all precious, all fleeting, all to be respected.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.