When we lose farmers and farms, we lose community

Land Stewardship Project member Chad Crowley farms with his wife, Melissa, near Nodine in southeastern Minnesota. They are in the process of taking over the operation of longtime dairy farmers Art and Jean Thicke. During an LSP farm crisis forum last winter in Preston, MN, Crowley spoke about the impact the loss of independent family farms is having on his community:

"I used to be a volunteer firefighter with the Nodine Fire Department, and I've seen a lot of stuff in the small communities. One of the things I've seen is how there aren't volunteers anymore. Because there are fewer farms, there are fewer people living on the land. People have to get a job in town. They can't respond from town to a fire department call-out.

"We're losing community involvement as the farmers are moving off the land. On our ridge alone, at one time we had eight dairy farms. We're the last one.

There's only one other farm on our ridge.

It's a beef farm. That's it.

When you have fewer farmers, who do I turn to? I can't go to my neighbor who works in town, and say, 'Oh my gosh, today I had this problem with a cow or I'm having this other farm problem.'

Yes, he's sympathetic and will say, 'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.' But he doesn't understand it. So, I think it's making it harder and harder, mentally, for dairy farmers and farmers in general, when you don't have people to be able to go to and find out that you aren't the only person in that situation, that other people are facing hard times.

When you're dealing with farmers, myself included, sometimes we don't express ourselves very well when it comes to hardships. Or we don't go and look for where there's resources, or where we could turn.

Maybe as a community we need to come together and realize that farmers are hurting, that maybe they're not going to come to you.

But if you can see it, come to them. Reach out to them. Just ask them, 'How are you doing?' I'm not just talking financially. We all know now it's not the greatest. But just, 'How do you feel? How's your day going?' It could go a long way if people reached out."

Publisher's two (or three) cents to add: what should we do locally? Should we as a community do more to recognize and provide assistance or moral support for those struggling in these difficult times? Whether it's a farmer or just a family facing hard times?

One big obstacle is recognizing that people are hurting. The lack of church and community activities makes this tough. For many, this is not a big deal. This isn't something to bother with. For a few, the pain is real, and the solutions are difficult to find.

My questions are many, my answers few.


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