Hostility Homegrown

One of the most wild things that I have been increasingly becoming aware of is the excessive xenophobia of our growers, not just in the US but worldwide. The xenophobia can be rooted in the ideas of “tradition”, racism, fear of “strangers”, among other reasons, but the reaction is often hateful, threatening, and can be downright terrifying

I first really began to understand this watching a show by Monty Don called, “My Dream Farm”. There were two shows that, while they didn’t focus on that exclusively, one made it very apparent that “traditional” farmers are extremely hostile, to the point of sending death threats to anyone who wants to start a farm. They come up with all kinds of excuses as to why they are so violent and aggressive, from, they don’t want hobby farms, to the over commercialization of land, without bothering to talk to the new farmer, discover who they are, what their goals are and what they can offer to the community. Monty’s answer there was to try and involve the people into the local community to tear down the wall of hate that was thrown up. While a good idea, it does not always settle some issues. One of the farmers received a death threat via letter as she was at a community event.

Another instance in the US is from El Paso County in Colorado. A black couple moved there to start a ranch just before the quarantine. Since then, their white neighbor has made it her life’s goal to make the lives of this couple as miserable as possible. She has rounded together the local town to have them drive by this couples’ property with guns, mutiliated their animals, killed their dogs and chickens, and even attempted to set their house on fire. The white neighbor believes that they are tresspassing, however, refuses to get a survey done and/or verify through county records where the property lines lay, instead, chosing blatant racism and hate to chase these people she doesn’t like out. This has escalated to amazing levels that should have never happened, mostly due to the fact that the El Paso County police have done little to resolve any of the issues, allowing the racism and hate to continue. They have not bothered to investigate the arson, the animal mutilation, and killings and are slow to respond to the domestic disputes that have come about. Basically, they refused to provide any sort of protection to the couple and have been found posting agreeing to racist and violent statements made to the FaceBook group their white neighbor started.

Today, I am listening to an interview of the head of the Alliance of Native Seedkeepers, and he tells a few stories where, when he first started teaching members of his community how to grow and harvest, someone burned down their fields as it was growing. He talks about how he was offered a significant investment, only to have it yanked from him just months before finalization due to actions of those opposing a Native American community trying to improve their people.

People have this naive view that farmers are these jolly, happy, welcoming people, but the reality is, they are, until you move into their community. Then, they turn and become almost like terrorists. When they say a “tight knit community” means, “We don’t welcome those we consider outsiders”. We want to think that since we are sharing a similar interest and love of getting back to the land, growing our own sustinance, cultivating the soil and taking care of the earth, yourself and your community. And I believe farmers overall want those things. They want to cultivate and recondition the soil for the best yields year over year, they want to provide for themselves and others, and they enjoy the lifestyle. The objectives are the same, just not the perspective when “strangers” come in and try to enjoy the same lifestyle.

I live and work among a lot of people who, not just work full time at an employer, but also have their own small acre farms. Some have had the farmland in their families for generations. Others have just started, or been an independent farmer for a while, but the land wasn’t family owned before them. They have all been extremely generous, extremely helpful, and extremely friendly. I have received beef, venison, a variety of veg, and other assorted help that has been invaluable and much appreciated. I have had political conversations with many of them. Most of them do have a very xenophobic base. They don’t want immigrants, they don’t want to pay taxes that go to people they feel are “lazy”, not entitled to, or “will use it for things they didn’t agree to” (Forgetting that once you give money, whether directly or through taxes, the entity you’ve given that money to has the right to do with it whatever they want. That realization that they cease to have exclusive control over it never seems to happen. Not sure why.) They are happy to organize for something they all dislike and hate, but when it comes to something that creates a community, they are less empassioned. They are happy to help, up to a point. That point is not the same for everyone, but the line to it gets shorter the less they know you, because ultimately, they don’t trust you.

One of the things I find the most entertaining is when they experience generousity with no motive. One farmer told me he was going to start raising goats. I looked at him and said, “If you start raising goats, I will come over and learn how to make goat cheese, goat milk soap, and other products.” He looked at me incedulously. He asked, “Do you know how?”

I said, “Nope! But I will learn everything I can on how to do it.”

He still seemed surprised. “Why?”

“Because it sounds like a great thing to do with goats, a great skill to learn, and a source of income,” I replied. “Plus, goats are fun! It’d be work, but I’m happy to give it a go!”

He said he would let me know if he finally decided. A few weeks later, he said he had decided not to, simply because some of the changes he would have had to make to keep them made their value less than it could be. But he asked me, “You really would have done that?’ Make goat milk cheese?”

“Hell yeah!” I answered. “If you let me, I’d be there!”

So there are ways to break that fear, but it isn’t easy. It shouldn’t have to be done in the first place. But trust is a hard thing to just have, and for these people, it seems to be well hidden away tucked under a massive layer of armor. I don’t have an answer on the best ways to break this thick coating of xenophobia among our growers. They live off word of mouth, things they hear and don’t use resources to prove if they are true or fabrication, and personal opinion, often handed down from family member to family member without skepicism. Monty Don may be right. Maybe inserting yourself into their community is the way. Maybe that just makes the pot boil harder. It does seem the key is to cut away at the othering ideology they have had installed into their mindset. To make “strangers” human again, real, tangible people who, much like them, just want to live their lives, be happy, and exist in that happiness, exactly as they do. Maybe then, real change can happen.

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