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July 2019: Farm Byline

When dreams collide

by Al Gustin


They’ve become iconic. Photographers love them – abandoned farm buildings. When he sees abandoned farms, a friend likes to point out, “That was somebody’s dream.” It was a dream fulfilled through hard work, determination and sacrifice. It was not for the faint of heart.

In 1955, R. J. McGinnis wrote a not-so-politically-correct essay titled, “A Farmer Takes a Wife.” Among other things, he wrote: “She should not mind the breeze from a trench silo, which wafts into the house, nor by the continuous parade of newborn pigs and lambs by the kitchen stove.”

“If she’s farm-reared,” McGinnis wrote, “she won’t be shocked by the little things that are always coming up, like finding a dead cat in the cistern or wheat chaff in the bed.”

In 1955, there were town folks and there were farmers. And the farmers were all pretty much the same, with similar dreams. Today, rural America is different.

Some years ago, the North Dakota Farm Bureau created an informational piece called, “So You Want to Move to the Country?” It’s full of advice about everything from sewer and septic systems, to accessing emergency services, to controlling noxious weeds, to living among farms and ranches. “Tillage, harvesting, haying and the like can result in dust, particularly in dry, windy weather conditions,” the brochure advises. “Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odors.”

Those whose dream is to live in the country need to realize that conditions may not always be idyllic. But their farmer-neighbors need to be sensitive, as well. A little dust on the window sill is one thing. Spray drift is another. While it is true that livestock can be associated with objectionable odors, it’s also true that livestock can do a lot of damage if they break out of enclosed areas.

As producers, we are justified in arguing that we were here first and that we have a “right to farm.” But we need to acknowledge that things have changed out in the countryside, where, sometimes, dreams collide.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.