Right to farm doesn't mean right to harm

John Weisinger threatened me with a $100,000 lawsuit when I first moved here. He feared my inexperience with irrigating would flood and ruin his grapes.

He was right. I had no knowledge of the relationships between the land I’d purchased, water, and his crops. I thought (Right to Farm), that I could turn my dry 10.5 acres into lush pasture, and grow hay.

After all, I had legal irrigation rights.

But this is not class 1 soil, with no-to-moderate slope like most farmland. It’s porous sandy loam. The land is very steep. If I had irrigated enough to produce that pasture and hay, the water would have prevented his grapes from sugaring. He’d have no crop.

Likewise, I found, I had to monitor and limit my irrigation so that it didn’t literally flood the horse ranches, below.

All of this limited my farm activities, hence my profits. But that’s the way it is. I didn’t NEED the threat of a lawsuit to honor and protect my neighbors. Not all EFU land is right for every type of farming.

I’m not the perfect neighbor. There is a real learning curve to living and farming here. I’ve made mistakes. But it’s very, very important to apologize, learn, and then do better by all.

I bought this property, already bisected by the driveway that serves both Weisinger’s and the property above. The bisection and lack of rich pasture dictates that I must rotate my stock, twice daily. I herd across the driveway, pasture to pasture. It’s far harder, and somewhat dangerous, now, with the traffic from Uproot Meats.

I now have irregular milking times, to avoid their traffic (construction trucks, workers, customers). This means lower milk production. I’ve had chickens killed, their people zooming through despite 5 mph signs. My automatic gates, there to protect my animals and my neighbors, get jammed open by those not understanding the mechanism. I’ve had to chase animals.

It’s often bad now. With the proposed facility and expansion, it will be far worse.

I pay high prices for organic feeds, and for hay. My animals are healthy. Contamination from above threatens this, my family, the community. This isn’t just “nuisances, smell or dust or noise.” It’s air and water quality, essential to farming, and to all.

Vegter says she chose the land for its topography, that the pigs might produce muscle. I would suggest this might be accomplished in a far more appropriate area, for less money and far less harmful excavation, with a “pig park.” Use flat land with a buffer, away from public water, and to promote exercise, feed the hogs atop sheltered, climbable, built-up mounds.

There are several laws not impinged by “Right to Farm.” Perhaps, given the polluted state of our nation, the Right to Farm law needs modification. We can work for that. But we’ve got to protect our families and health in the meantime.

The land above may be zoned EFU. That does not mean the owners have the right to harm.

Hyiah Sirah lives below Uproot Meats south of Ashland.

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