Some growers have to live on the edge
Talk about living on the edge. Farmers in a half-dozen California communities personify that situation so well that they have become part of an important study.
A team of University of California researchers concerned with the urban-rural faceoff has compiled information from both residents on the edges of six semi-rural cities in California and their neighboring farmers. The resulting report offers some actions that city dwellers and farmers can take to make cohabitation easier,
Not surprisingly the residents of Livingston and Los Banos in Merced County and Prunedale and Salinas in Monterey County are sometimes disturbed by dust, odors, nighttime operations and irrigation practices at farming operations near them. In many cases they are newcomers to their communities, often with little knowledge or appreciation of farm practices or requirements.
The Southern California communities of Oceanside and Ramona, where city residents said they are inconvenienced by confined farm animals and all that it takes to house and maintain them, were also part of the study.
Theft of tools and other farm equipment and dogs running loose through irrigated farmland were high on the list of complaints lodged by farmers with land bordering the communities selected for the study. They question the suggestion often made that a buffer zone be established between them and the nearby cities.
One of the farmers operating near Prunedale said theft of farm equipment has become so bothersome that he never leaves anything in his fields overnight, not even a shovel. Before he adopted that practice, thieves stole the radiator and entire transmission assembly from a truck parked overnight in a remote part of his farm.
Near Ramona in San Diego County persistent complaints by residents of the city about a large poultry operation nearby eventually resulted in closure of the egg-producing ranch and sale of the property. Other issues beyond the urban expressions were part of the equation.
The authors of the university report indicate that the chances for compatible relations between farmers and urbanites will mostly require farmers to adjust or revise their traditional practices. However, Oceanside and some cities not included in the study have established limits on expansion, even designating space near them where high-volume agriculture is to be encouraged, off-limits to residential expansion.
They suggest that farmers in edge communities can help city dwellers understand and accept farm practices by informing them when dusty, noisy or nighttime activities are scheduled. And they point out that sharing samples of their crops with their neighbors has an endearing quality that is widely appreciated.
The research team was headed by Alvin Sokolow, specialist emeritus in public policy at UC Davis, and included S. Varea Hammond, director UC Cooperative Extension in Monterey County, Maxwell Norton, farm adviser in Merced County, and E.E. Schmidt, a recent graduate of the Geography Graduate Group at UC Davis.
The research team implied that the study might have resulted in more questions than answers, questions about reporting procedures that city dwellers can follow, effects on farmer profit when adjustments are made, and whether right-to-farm ordinances make a difference.
To a great extent, the whole edge conflict might come down to communication. If a farmer's property is separated from a long line of residences by six-foot-high backyard fences, he might want to spend some time peering over them in conversation, helping mend them and occasionally tossing a gift bag of his favorite product over them.
Of course, if his peace offering hits the family dog or falls into the backyard pool, he might find himself tottering on the edge of a whole new set of complaints.
CONTACT Don Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org