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August 20, 2006 - Say “Welcome”

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t receive a letter or an e-mail from a farm family, terribly concerned about the fact that they have new neighbors; a family from the city that has moved into their dream country home, right next door to the farm.

Suddenly the new neighbors are demanding all sorts of things. They don’t like machinery noise early in the morning or late at night. They don’t like the odor that is coming from the livestock farm. They don’t like the residue, mud or manure, left on the roadway by farm equipment because that dirties their “newly washed car” that they drive on that same roadway. On and on it goes, the litany of concerns that ultimately, in many cases, will lead to a lawsuit.

We have heard it time and again from people who are really finding themselves at their “wit’s end” because they have been operating that farm for 100 years with neighbors who understand life in the country. Now suddenly, they have neighbors who have their own perception of country life that comes nowhere near matching reality.

A suggestion that I have made several times over the years, and I think it needs to be done on a county by county basis, is to form some kind of what I call a “Welcome Wagon” organization that used to exist in cities and suburbs. It’s purpose would be to greet and welcome the new family to the country. I think it is important you get acquainted with these new neighbors quickly, and explain to them that life is going to be different in the country. They are going to hear noises they have not heard before; they are going to smell odors they haven’t smelled before; there is no garbage pick-up every week, and yes, during thunderstorms the electricity tends to go off sometime.

There are several County Farm Bureaus in Illinois that have put together a brochure designed for city folks moving to the country. It explains all of these things to new rural residents, and it does it in an understandable way. I have found that if you make friends with people right away and explain to them what you have to do to put food on their table, they often will become your strongest supporters.

One other point...some farmers bring on the problem by being suspicious of the motives of a new city neighbor or flatly saying they have no right to be there. They do have that right and so my suggestion is when the new neighbors from the city move in, be there on the front doorstep with a chocolate cake or an apple pie and say “Welcome to the neighborhood! We’re glad you’re here.”

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.