Hidden Creek Farm in Dalton Township, Michigan has been issued a Temporary Restraining Order by a judge to cease and desist selling anything from their farm. In addition, a neighbor has filed a $75,000 nuisance suit against these young energetic farmers because their customers add cars to their rural road and that constitutes a nuisance.
On June 10 at 6 p.m. the Dalton Township board of supervisors will meet to decide the future of Hidden Creek Farm. I think it would be great if that township could be flooded with emails of support for these farmers.
I wish this were an isolated situation, but it's not. I have no idea how many similar tensions exist around the U.S., but my intuition is that it's at least hundreds and likely more than a thousand. Litigious remedies override neighborly conversations. Rather than an unhappy neighbor talking directly to the farmers, the first indication of a problem is a visit from a sheriff's deputy, suit in hand. This indicates a total breakdown of community and civility.
Yesterday, here at Polyface, Temple Grandin said our country had a crisis of land use. Is it to be used like a giant playground, or can it be used for growing food? Should it be used for growing food? I suggest that growing food is a great use, and that includes the folks who want to buy that food.
I'm extremely sensitive to the rural traffic issue because here at Polyface, we're on a dirt road and we know the neighbors don't take kindly to us putting vehicles on the road. What's worse, these vehicles often are driven by urban folks who don't know how to "get over" with one tire off the narrow pavement in order for someone coming the other direction to pass. Urban bicyclists routinely ride 3 or 4 abreast, forcing us into the side ditch.
Our neighbors detest urban recreational bicyclists. One morning I was going over to check on some cows at one of the rental farms and the van putting up the bicycle tour signs at intersections stopped and then backed right into my truck--it was a major intersection here in the community, but these folks assumed they were the only ones on the road; after all, this farmland greenspace is a big playground.
But what keeps it green? What keeps it farmland? The best way is for these urban cousins to come out and leave their money here. Farms that simply sell into the commodity system are being squeezed out of business. Many have opted to put in mega-buildings housing livestock and poultry as their ticket to survival. Is this what our urban cousins want to ride by?
If you think I'm rambling, let me connect the dots. The farms that offer aesthetic and aromatic sensually romantic contexts are direct marketing farms. They are the ones that sell directly to city cousins, building relationships and links to cut out the middle man and keep more money on the farm. That means neighbors and townships who want to maintain a rural character must tolerate and even embrace the stream of townies who come out and buy.
That Hidden Creek is being demonized and criminalized by both the township and elitists neighbors for building marketing relationships with urban cousins does not preserve rural character; it's the quickest way to kill picturesque landscapes. Agrarian character requires a viable economy, which requires direct commerce between farms and city customers. Today ain't grandpa's era. What got you here won't get you there. Our rural roads scream for traffic. Load 'em up.
Do you routinely add a rural food/fiber run to your commerce?