Baxter Black: On the Edge of Common Sense
Keith was driving me into Edmonton, Alberta, on Hwy 26 from the west. The large grain and cattle farms began to shatter into smaller pieces of property; 40 acres, 20 acres or 12 acres. The countryside was still green and well kept with fields of five horses or three cows. Usually it included a nice home with landscaping and a manicured entrance.
“More farm ground is disappearing every year,” said Keith, noting the loss of big farmsteads. He was right but it has been going on since the pilgrims set foot in Newfoundland, it is the inexorable roll of civilization.
These smaller plots, “ranchettes,” are a stage in this progression. But, I’ve noticed one very positive side of those new “rural lifestylers.” With the intention to teach their children some connection to the land and livestock, or for their own sake, they take on projects like gardening, raising sheep, llamas, rabbits, goats, ducks, horses or cows. And regardless whether it is an organic garden, a litter of pigs or one calf, once they get their hands dirty they begin to have an inkling of what it takes to make food out of dirt and water. It is a life-changing experience.
I think that before any person is tricked into sending money to PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, ALF, ELF, or any of those two-faced groups whose goal includes the elimination of modern farming practices, that person should be allowed to raise at least one baby Holstein calf from birth to edible, or to grow enough vegetables in one summer to feed a family for just seven days.
Once they are engaged in the process of raising food, they will appreciate that farming is a complicated process that guarantees risk, pitfalls, hard work and commitment. But they will also comprehend the sense of accomplishment of becoming part of nature, not just the skim on the top. This experience will qualify them to examine with a keener eye the often sleazy, forked-tongued and gratuitously morbid supplications for money, money, money from the animal rights grubbers.
Our 20-acre-neighbors will gain the ability to distinguish their local Humane Societies, county agents, district agriculturalists, and veterinarians from the National Beggars Association of ANTI’s who haven’t raised a calf, had it butchered, or fed their family for a week from their own labors in the soil.
My advice to you farmers and ranchers who miss the old days, is to befriend your new neighbors and offer to teach them Beginning Agriculture 101. Let them experience the deep pride one gets from personally participating in one of life’s most basic occupations. They will learn where food comes from. And, I repeat, it is life changing.
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One out of every three acres in the U.S. is rangeland. Two-thirds of these are privately owned, mainly by ranchers who graze their livestock in the open country of the American West.