Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Living, working, and gardening in Ohio and owning my husband's inherited family farm in Michigan brings some interesting problems. One is trespassers.

This weekend we noticed a break in the fencerow where the adjoining farm has a path that looks heavily used by 4-wheelers (all-terrain vehicles, ATV's, quads, etc...) and the path leads right out into our field.

E and his brother were very busy, so didn't have time to drag a brush pile up and block the access point, so it will be another week or two before we get there and have a chance to do this.

The entire farm is very clearly posted "NO TRESPASSING". These guys are not the only ones - I have chased away deer hunters and mushroom hunters who claimed they had permission from the owner. E has taken down and confiscated deer stands. There are beer cans in the orchard occasionally, and the new neighbors across the street have asked permission to scour the orchard for firewood for their bonfires (NO), the old neighbors to the north have asked if they can erect temporary fences in the orchard to let their horses graze because they don't have enough land (NO). The neighbors to the south put their deer stand up on their property - but they are shooting into our field.

Of course we wonder who is on the property when we are not there. We do ask a neighbor that we trust to kind of keep an eye on the place and there are two legitimate visitors - the honey field beekeeper and the guy who spreads manure.

Land envy is what all these people have in common. They need land to pursue the activities they choose. We have the land, but not enough time to "protect" it. So they just "borrow" it.

I have land envy, too. I look at the farms around here in Ohio and think that I would like to buy one so I can put up a greenhouse, or install a training facility for fiber/needle arts technology. The ones I want due to location near our house, or near my father's farm, are not for sale, so I just keep on looking. Every time I see a real estate sign in front of a farm I get a quickening of the pulse. Could this be the one?

So, today I read 1 Kings Chapter 21. 1 Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." 4 Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat. 5 His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?" 6 He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, "Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, "I will not give you my vineyard.' " 7 His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

The chapter goes on to discuss how she accomplished the death/murder of Naboth through political maneuverings, and thereby gained ownership of the land that Ahab desired. I always thought Jezebel was contemptible because she was unfaithful - a whore, more or less- she worshiped Asherah/Astarte and encouraged the Baal-worshipers, so she was unfaithful to Jehovah. She was punished - she was killed and her body was left for the dogs and the vultures.

I never really looked at this story through the frame of land envy until today. The conflicts in the Middle East are about land envy also. Our president has made it clear that we are keeping the oil-rich Iraqi land away from the hands of the terrorists by our presence in Iraq - and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is about keeping the ancestral land - but whose ancestors?

As I picked the Damson plums off our heavily-laden tree, the neighbor's dog was barking at me. He was disturbed by my presence on my own property, because he's not used to seeing me there.

While the neighbor attempted to quiet her dog, I was thinking about the abundance God has blessed us with - we can't possibly use all the fruit that grows on this land unless we hire someone to help harvest and process the food - but it's not an good economic proposition these days to be a farmer, hence our jobs in Ohio. Sources as diverse as the
Ohio Farmer magazine (2006) and the Minnesota Wheat Grower's association (1995) are emphasizing the need for farm diversification - especially diversifying into off-farm income.

The question - how can we share the wealth, loving our neighbors, without giving up our property rights? Are property rights really God-given? Can privately-owned farms be sustainable enterprises?

"Despite the fact that farmers have been forced to concentrate most of their energies on maintaining a healthy bottom line, they, and their colleagues in rural communities, are increasingly becoming aware that there is more to life than bread. Simply maintaining an income level that keeps the wolf away from the door does not constitute a life.

Increasingly, therefore, questions about quality of life, and social goals are being considered as part of the sustainable agriculture agenda. Slowly we are beginning to recognize that a set of values that we call "the common good" underlies everything that all of us do. Farming is no exception."
- Fred Kirschenmann, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

1 comment:

LJRphoto said...

I don't have an answer to your problem of protecting your land when you are far away, but I can certainly empathize. We have a neighbor who decided (while we were home) to go tearing across our pasture land on his ATV. It infuriates me that he would have the audacity. On the other hand, we have a neighbor who heats his home with wood and we have lots of wood available here that we have no need of since we don't have a wood burning stove or even a fireplace. He's been cutting up fallen branches and such, plus there is a good amount of fire wood that was already here when we bought the place. It's a mutually beneficial situation.

So, I guess my point is, that you don't have to share with everyone to feel that you are sharing. People who are respectful and kind to us gain our respect and kindness.

Oh, and the no trespassing signs are going up very soon.

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