Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Enough to Make You Cry

I don't check social media all that much.  My interactions there tend to be farm focused because, to me, it's a tool that I can't ignore if we want our farm to continue.  As is the case with every communication tool that has increased the ease with which we can share varying media, the content quality can be suspect.  And, the immediacy or the 'call and response' cycle encourages us to skip the process of critical thinking.

It's so easy to share things that upset us.  It's so easy to share inane things that don't matter all that much.  It's so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the unhappy things out there.

It's enough to make you cry.

Until you remind yourself that there is a strength in knowledge.  If you are careful about what you share and you think hard about what goes out there, perhaps you can help inform people about things that they should know about.

For example:
Dicamba Sales Suspended in Arkansas and Missouri

Dicamba is a 'reformulation' of 2-4D, which was known to drift and cause problems before it was banned from use. Supposedly, the producer of the chemical addressed this problem and got approval for the sale of the dicamba ready soybeans and use of the product. Since that time, it has become apparent that they did NOT handle the drifting issue. In fact, there are problems with storing the stuff as well. Dicamba damage to plants can take on many forms but it is not easy to verify, and it is nearly impossible to track from whence it came. All I can say is this chemical is dangerous.

Note at the end of the article the mention of enhanced penalties. Iowa's penalties top out at about 6% of Missouri's new penalties.

Why do I bring this to your attention?  Well, if we want to do something about it, people need to be made aware of the issue.  Please, consider contacting legislators and voicing your concern.  While a suspension of sales in Arkansas and Missouri is something, it will not stick if people celebrate and assume it will go away.  It won't without some effort.

And, while we are worried about herbicides like Dicamba, there are also pesticides like the neonicoianoids that have been linked to pollinator decline.  
We started asking nurseries if their stock was treated with neonicotinoids prior to purchase.  Why? Because we took the time to learn about an issue and how we might be perpetuating a problem.
Then there is this:
Farmworkers in California sickened by Spray Drift

While it is true that there are more field workers in California than most states, you should take note that there has been more field activity in Iowa fields than there has been in recent years.  We've seen some farmers going back to hiring crews to "walk beans" and go "rock picking" than in prior years.  Some of this might be a response to lower corn and soybean prices (among other factors), but the point is - there are more workers outside doing a job during the growing season.

Then there are people such as myself and Tammy and our crew Caleb, Emma and Jocelyn.  We're out there nearly every day.  Just because we are doing a job that many people don't WANT to do, it doesn't make it ok that we have to inhale chemicals someone else is spraying for crops that are NOT on our farm.  Heck, it wouldn't be ok if we wanted to spray some of our crops and our workers had to inhale it (or be covered in it).  For that matter, if I sprayed a field with my workers in it, I would expect to be in trouble.  Why is it we accept that a neighboring farmer can spray and miss their field and not be in trouble for harming workers on another farm?  Why is it ok to drift on people who just live in the country or at the edge of a small town in Iowa?

Again, this is worth our time because it isn't ok.  We need to say this clearly and we need to be persistent.  We can take action to make things better - which is why I put it in front of you.

And then:
Iowa is Losing Trees and It Is Hurting Water Quality

I have watched unhappily while people in our area of Bremer county have ripped up trees, brushy areas and lightly wooded areas so they can till a few more acres of land.  After all, if you have access to the land, you MUST make it work.  Right?  Right?!?

The problem here is that we have a terribly narrow and short-sighted view of what making land 'work' for us might be.  Uncle Brownie used to find tree seedlings in his field that he would move to the fence line.  He understood the value of trees in the farmscape and he promoted their presence on the land he stewarded during his lifetime.

Now, it seems like some farmers are even jealous and upset that there are ditches next to our roads.  How many times have you seen fields where the old fence posts are ripped out and the field is worked up and over the crown that leads to the ditch?

It is no longer about making the land work for you so you can make a living and it is more about milking every little ounce out of the land NOW so YOU can USE it NOW.  Who cares about anything (or anyone) else?

But wait, there is more:
Farmers Commit Suicide at a High Rate, Even after 80's Farm Crisis

No, this is not a cry for help.  But, I feel it is a part of the puzzle.

Simply put, farming can be a stressful vocation.  I could write an entire post about this alone (and then some).  But, I feel part of the issue is that we have built a system that rewards competition and monocropping and large scale agriculture.  Anyone who fails to go that way adds extra stresses that may be the straw that 'breaks the camel's back.'  Or, even if you try to play the game, it's not so hard to end up playing for the losing team (so to speak).

Farmers under high stress are less likely to want to think about things like how what they do impacts water quality, or their neighbor's crops or the meadowlark population.  When you are hurting, your world gets smaller.

The problem, perhaps is just that - we've all made our own personal worlds so small we can't see when we harm others:
Meteorologist Shows Poor Air Quality in Central Iowa After Fireworks Frenzy

I am glad we have personal freedoms in our country.  I am not necessarily a big fireworks fan, but I guess I can understand why some people were very excited about the removal of the firework sales ban in Iowa this year.

My biggest reason for not liking this decision was the fact that I could see how our tendency as humans to not consider others could cause some very real problems.

What about veterans who cringe and have flashbacks (or worse) every time a firework goes off?  It's one thing to have fireworks on the fourth of July.  They have a chance to find a safe place and try to muffle the sound.  But, when it is ANY citizen shooting a firework off at ANY time at nearly ANY place?  What are they supposed to do, find a deep cave and stay there for a month?  How is that right?

I thought of several other issues and I was still surprised (though I shouldn't have been) by the air quality issue.  As an asthmatic, if the air quality in our area had reached those levels, I would have had a pretty bad time of it.

And now, you know why I am sharing all of these links and stories - along with the issues.  Sure, they may make you sad
or angry
maybe even feel helpless.

But, I submit that the solution is within reach.  When you consider how your actions and choices just might negatively impact others, you can improve things.  When you see problems like these and draw attention to them, you can encourage action and thought that might widen someone's personal worldview.  And, when you make it known that you are dissatisfied with how things are in a reasonable way that considers how others feel - maybe something positive can happen.

If you don't take care of the problem, it only gets bigger.

Positive change sure won't happen otherwise.

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