Where Is All This Coming From?
First off, what I’m about to discuss with you are not new feelings for me. This is something that I have felt strongly about for a long time. It just seems that recent events in my area have brought it to the forefront of my mind again. I need to rant about it, so here goes.
What Is A Farmer?
We are going to consider for the purpose of this post, that a farmer is anyone who owns a piece of land that they work on. Whether it be growing vegetables or giving riding lessons. The term “horse farmer” isn’t really a thing. I just want to make my point that it’s not only the people with a hundred acres of land that consider themselves “farmers”. The crop or animal they raise really doesn’t matter. For today, we are calling them all farmers.
The farm I live on is a family farm. My great grandparents lived here and farmed it, and then my parents farmed it. Now we are”horse farmers” if that is even a thing. The main thing that all of us farmers have in common is that we want to be able to keep our property. In order for us to continue to be able to do what we want, whatever that may be.
Eminent Domain Sucks!
The majority of our family farm was taken by the right of eminent domain, by Anne Arundel County, to build a school complex.
My Great Grandfather, John Archibald Ellison, would have never sold his property if he had the choice. In fact, from the stories, I have heard he fought to keep it as long and as hard as he could. It probably took years off his life.
We are left with a postage stamp of a farm, compared to what our original family farm was. Not that I’m complaining, I’m lucky that we have anything left at all.
It seems like no matter where you look around here you see more trees being cut down and more subdivision signs. For some reason preserving open space and farmland is of no concern to the modern demographic.
This Is How I See It!
They took our property by eminent domain. That is all water under the bridge now and we do the best with what we can, but it still sucks. Living in the middle of a school complex, next to an obnoxious football field. My Great Grandfather would die if he saw all the development that has happened, just in this one little area of our county.
The popularity of this area I believe is due to the convenience for commuters to Baltimore or Washington D.C. Not to mention water access. We are a peninsula surrounded by water, so you can imagine there are a lot of waterfront homes and communities.
I get it, I love it here. Even in my little old farmhouse surrounded by obnoxious schools, I still wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It just seems that suburbia is determined to push away the few farms that are left. Not just here, but everywhere.
Not many people want to be farmers anymore. Kids are not taught the values of hard work on a farm and the importance of preserving agricultural land.
This means, that even if nobody is knocking on my front door, telling me they are taking my property, suburbia wants to push us out.
Every time more houses are built, ball fields, and shopping centers, it makes it just a little harder to keep the farm a farm in the middle of suburban sprawl.
There is a piece of property across from me that for years was supposedly going to become a nursing home. They have made some headway, just putting up a bridge thing, but otherwise, it is still open space.
Across the driveway from that is the property where my brother raises his cattle. The property that my parents farmed many years ago. Just last week a for sale sign went up on that property. Who knows what will end up there and how it will affect us on our farm.
It may not directly affect us, but will people think about the fact that they are buying a house next to a farm? Nope, they will just complain about it after the fact. Like we weren’t here first, or all along.
Farming, No Matter What You Are Farming, Requires Space
I’m not talking about a garden in your backyard( not judging I think it’s great that there are still people interested enough in growing things that they want to grow them themselves) a legitimate farming business. Vegetables, fruits, hay, straw…all of those things require an ample amount of space to be able to farm enough to make enough money. Enough money is even sort of joke when in terms of farming because I have never heard of any farmer who gives himself a salary each week for the work they put in on their farm. On a small farm, it is all about keeping it out of the red. This is a difficult thing with limited space. Farmers, scrimp, save and overwork themselves in the interest of keeping their farms to be able to continue to do what they want.
Our Produce Farm
My parents farmed this property from 1982 until 2000. We not only used our acreage. They used the property I mentioned earlier on the other side of the street, as well as our other family property down the road. They had to! Our farm on its own was not enough space. Even with growing on all three places. My Dad still drove to the eastern shore to buy sweet corn before he went to his day job as a park ranger.
Our produce farm came to an end when we couldn’t find good help anymore. Not many people want to pick vegetables for hours in the hot sun. My grandparents who had been super involved were getting older and not able to participate as much. My brother and I were still in school at the time so there was nothing we could do.
In 2000, we transitioned from a produce farm to a horse farm. Originally just for boarding. Then we added a few lesson horses. The problem is, we can only do so much with the amount of space we have. Horses are hard on the ground. Not to mention, not having enough acres to keep good pasture causes the added expense of having to buy hay ( a big one!).
Right now our farm has sort of outgrown its self. We need horses to do the work, but we don’t have enough space to keep them all on a reasonable budget. If we still had our original property, we would have had plenty of room for the horses to graze. Reducing hay cost, which would make a big difference in the bottom line around here. Farmers probably are some of the most resourceful people around. Especially, suburban farmers who are limited on space and have to think outside the box.
It’s A Tough Spot To Be In
When you have a property that means so much to you, but between the logistics of farming on the smaller area and the property taxes and insurance, it feels like it is always an uphill battle.
We teach riding lessons and do summer camps here. There are not many kids out there anymore who are really interested in horses enough to pursue it any further than a weekly lesson. It’s a generation that has no interest in preserving farmland, because who needs farmland? Nobody wants to be a farmer anymore! At least not many people that weren’t born into it like my brother and me.
This and the almighty dollar is what leads to more and more homes being built and fewer people being able to keep family farms in their families. It’s hard to make enough money to keep the farm going, let alone property tax, and god forbid you might want to feed yourself, kids, or pets
It Is Like To Society Farming Is Some Weird Hobby
It is some sort of weird hobby that someone else does! Not something that you or your kids would ever do. You like to go to the pumpkin patch in the fall and buy fresh vegetables all summer, but don’t consider the people that make all that happen, they are farmers. They can’t do their jobs without farms.
People don’t consider where their food comes from, how it gets from the field to the grocery store to your refrigerator. Someone grew those vegetables and harvested them. Someone raised that cattle and sent them to processing( god forbid, did you know hamburger comes from cows?)
There is no magical food fairy that will come and wave her magic wand and feed us all when housing developments, shopping centers, and athletic fields take away our farms. Ever seen that bumper sticker that says “No Farms, No Food”? Hate to break it to you but that is the truth.
It’s Not Even Just That
It is about the people out there that are doing everything they can to be able to keep their farm property. Farming is a lifestyle, a way of life that most can’t understand. For those of us that live it though, we can’t imagine life any other way.
We will struggle, and kick and scream and try to find any way possible to make money on our farms. Why do you think so many farms have corn mazes and pumpkin patches? Trust me, it isn’t because they love strangers on their property so much. It is because they have had to make hard choices. Either do what it takes to make money, or sell the farm… And they ain’t sellin’ the farm.
Getting Down Off The Soap Box
I’m done now. I’m impressed and appreciate if you took the time to read through this whole ramble.
Keeping what is left of our family farm is a driving force in the lives of my family members and me. I would like to think that one day my Great Grandfather Ellison will look down and smile at us because no matter how hard it got, we didn’t sell the farm he worked so hard for us to be able to have.
P.S.-I by no means am trying to imply that people who own property shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want with it. Even if that is to sell it and move on. I just believe that more consideration should be given to farmers. We can’t live without them you know! I wish there were more crazy people like me out there to remind the world of these important facts!
P.S.S- a fun fact to all the kids out there that are too cool to be farmers and think it’s just a weird hobby…. there are more careers related to agriculture in our country than any other industry. Just Sayin’!