Whenever I pass a freshly plowed field it gives me the same thrill as an unopened book–full of potential, surprise, and pleasure. And just like that book beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth ready for planting beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers and feel its coolness between my toes.
My connection to farming is a gift I cherish from my childhood spent on a dairy surrounded by Holstein dairy cows, an assortment of dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional jack-rabbit my father found orphaned while cutting alfalfa. For me, there was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling the heady aroma of alfalfa, while staring up at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.
One of my favorite places in the dead of summer was the peach orchard. I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With the first bite, peach juice made race tracks down my arm. Nothing ever tasted as good. Like a piece of heaven to my taste buds.
We didn’t have much, but neither did anyone else we knew. I wore hand-me-downs. We canned most of our fruits and vegetables. Fresh, clean air and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through fields and hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes sealed shut. I roamed sweltering orchards while my mother picked peaches.
At our house, milk didn’t just materialize from the store. It came from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed, milked and turned back to the pasture. Milk came from an abundance of hard work before it arrived at our table.
Perhaps I view my childhood through rose-colored glasses. And certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but the difference is, back then the majority of kids who didn’t live on farms had family or friends who did, and they had the opportunity to visit them. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, makes this same comment in his book. He said that baby boomers may be the last generation of Americans to share an intimate and familial attachment to the land and water.
My parents sold the dairy when I was ten, but farming stayed with me. My husband and I bought land, planted an orchard from the ground up and currently grow table olives. We raised our children on a farm, and I’ve worked as a freelance photojournalist specializing in agriculture for the past 15 years.
Every day I become more aware of the limited exposure children have to farming. Statistics show the U.S. farm population is dwindling, and 40 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 or older. I see this every day when I’m interviewing farmers, and I wonder who will raise our food when they’re gone? What happens if today’s youth is not inspired to farm?
Ultimately, the answer begins and ends with parents. Our children need to be inspired to farm. They need hands-on time with agriculture. They need to see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory. Along with the hundreds of thousands of college graduates going into medicine, law and business, we need equal numbers of agriculture graduates ready, willing and eager to farm.
I believe the best way to achieve this is by providing children, at a young age, with frequent exposure to farming. Children need to know how food is produced, and they need to read books with agriculture themes. Last Child in the Woods lists 100 actions parents can take to get children into nature. One of his suggestions is to take them to U-Pick farms or join a local co-op where the kids are involved from planting to harvesting. Every child should know the joy of whiling away a warm summer afternoon in a barn, an owl snoozing in the rafters and a litter of newborn kittens sandwiched between bales of hay.
Kathy Coatney has worked as a freelance photojournalist for 15 years, starting in parenting magazines, then fly fishing and finally specializing in agriculture. Her latest project is the Farmer Guy/Gal series of children’s picture books with an agriculture theme.
View her photos at: www.agstockusa.com.
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It is the 25th of May
And we are all eagerly waiting to begin cutting hay.
The thermometer says it is 34
As I return soaking wet, from changing water, carrying firewood in the door.
I can see the snow falling in hills across the way,
Time to reevaluate my plans for the day.
It is hard to believe I can see my breath in the air
So I settle down next to the fire, coffee in hand, in my big leather chair.
TRIAL IN SISKIYOU COUNTY FARM BUREAU WATER RIGHTS SUIT RESUMES MAY 29
Trial is scheduled to resume May 29 in a lawsuit filed by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau to challenge the California Department of Fish and Game’s new interpretation of a 51-year-old law. The first week of trial included testimony from farmers and ranchers who said DFG actions threaten farmers’ ability to provide water to their crops.
The case centers on a new DFG interpretation of Section 1602 of the California Fish and Game Code. This section requires individuals to notify and potentially obtain a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement from DFG before conducting certain activities that alter a streambed. Since Section 1602 became law in 1961, DFG has required such permits for activities including gravel mining, the annual construction of push-up dams, installation of new headgates and other construction projects that physically alter streambeds.
But in 2010, DFG began enforcing a fundamental change in how the statute was applied, when it informed farmers in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds that they would be required to obtain streambed alteration agreements simply to exercise their longstanding water rights by opening an existing headgate or activating an existing pump in order to irrigate their crops. Water rights are already managed by the courts and a separate state agency, the State Water Resources Control Board. This new interpretation would require water users to obtain a permit from DFG to exercise existing water rights.
Siskiyou County Farm Bureau members Jim Morris, Jeff Fowle and Joe Hurlimann testified during the first week of trial, describing the impacts the new layer of requirements would have on their ability to irrigate their crops.
“It was important for our farmers and ranchers to provide real-world examples of how the new interpretation is affecting them,” Siskiyou County Farm Bureau President Rex Houghton said. “The new requirements jeopardize both water rights and property rights for farmers and ranchers, creating a situation with a constant threat of enforcement action, additional burdensome fees and the time and expense of obtaining the annual permits.”
Houghton noted that farmers and ranchers along the two rivers have taken a number of voluntary actions to benefit salmon, and said DFG already has many other ways to assure protection of the fish.
The majority of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau case was presented to the judge during the first week of trial. Siskiyou County Farm Bureau will finish its case and DFG will present its case following the current recess in the trial.
“The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau would like to thank the local farmers and ranchers, as well as county Farm Bureaus throughout the state for their support,” Houghton said. “
In support of the action taken by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, a number of local organizations, in addition to individual ranchers and farmers, have come forward with donations.
Jim Wilson, a representative of Save Our Scott and Shasta (S0SS), sent $7000 and a statement to the Farm Bureau: “Due to inactivity (by this organization) in the ongoing fight for water rights, we propose that SOSS cease its current operations and transfer the remaining funds in our treasury to the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, to assist in the lawsuit challenging the California Fish and Game’s new interpretation of 1602 permits. We feel the lawsuit is consistent with SOSS’s original mission statement.”
Gail Jenner, President of Siskiyou County CattleWomen, presented Rex Houghton with a $5000 donation. “We are committed to assisting our local Farm Bureau in this fight, which is a fight to preserve our adjudicated water rights. Though SCCW’s primary purpose is to provide scholarships and promote beef, without the right to use water as approved and provided for by the court, there is no agriculture. Little do most consumers realize that the backbone of this country, which is agriculture, is cracking under the weight of over-reaching regulations, increased fees and delays, and intimidation by state and federal agencies, in addition to rising costs and expenses.”
Jenner added, “We hope anyone who cares about agriculture or protecting individual rights will step forward. Our government has already imposed regulations and permitting processes aplenty.”
According to Cliff Munson, Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s President, “Siskiyou County Cattlemen applaud the efforts put forth by the Farm Bureau and the other organizations in Siskiyou County that wholeheartedly support the Farm Bureau lawsuit. Our legislature passes bills, and three or four individuals create a set of regulations, and those regulations are then interpreted by whoever is in charge of our various state agencies. We have reached a point where regulation and interpretation is destroying our way of life.” The cattlemen have also made a $5000 donation.
Munson continued, “We had a revolution in this country, which was settled in 1776, but when people start going hungry because of the lack of food, we will probably have another. It is great to see the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, the Protect Our Water Organization, Save our Scott and Shasta, the Siskiyou County CattleWomen, and the Cattlemen all join together to help this cause. ”
Mark Baird, of Protect Our Water (POW), also joined in with a donation. “POW supports the Farm Bureau wholeheartedly. We will stand with you ‘til the bitter end. Water rights are integral to agriculture and many of these rights go back more than a hundred years. That the government can step in and impose its own authority when these rights have been adjudicated by the court, is outrageous. It’s time we take a real stand. Enough is enough.”
Mario Burch, 2nd Vice President for Siskiyou County Farm Bureau said. “This is a regulation we must defeat and a case we must win. It’s good to see the various groups unified in support of, and with us in our fight against misused government regulation.”
“Siskiyou County Farm Bureau thanks each of the donors for their contributions,” Houghton said . “We look forward to getting back into the courtroom for the conclusion of the trial and the judge’s ruling on the new interpretation of Section 1602.”
The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau is a voluntary membership organization that works to protect and promote agricultural interests through Siskiyou County and to protect and improve the availability of food and fiber through responsible stewardship of resources.
Courtesy Jodi Burch, Executive Director, Siskiyou County Farm Bureau
Sunday morning started like many mornings…I went to kitchen, started my coffee and sat down at the computer to catch up on Twitter and Facebook, while waiting for the first pot brew. It was still dark outside, but I could tell we had received some snow. After replying to a few mentions and posting a few thoughts on Twitter, I opened up Facebook. The very first post that I saw was from a friend who usually posts in the afternoon,
a very very sad thing happened in the valley today! please grab your loved ones hold on tight and tell em you love them! life is too short!!
I had just finished reading the post and wondering what had happened when my phone rang…not common before 6:30…it was a close friend. The news, tragic…a very dear family, to both of us, had lost their son, by his own hand. We talked for a few minutes, both in shock and said a prayer for the family. Read more…
All I can say is….
Who knew horses loved licorice so much?
Over the weekend we had our family birthday supper for our February birthdays. At the conclusion, I began to feed the four bummer lambs. Somehow a picture was taken and I had to post it. A number of people asked, “What is a ‘bummer’?”
A bummer lamb is one that is raised entirely or partially away from a mother. They come from a variety of situations. Read more…
It has been a while since I posted and for that I apologize. The primary reason was that I did not want publish a post that was not uplifting and positive, so close to Christmas.
Four weeks ago I helped bury a dear friend and had to put a mare down who broke her leg, in the middle of the field, with no holes around, apparently from running, or being chased. Then, three days later, one of our mares, who had just foaled, was killed by either a mountain lion or bear and a cow was killed on the same night, perhaps by a pack of coyotes or the same lion or bear. Read more…