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How Much Communication is Too Much with Neighbors?

When I first started farming, I wanted to be that guy that was in total communications with my neighbors. I was going to let them know everything. When I was going to plant, when I was going to harvest, and especially when I was going to spray.  So that’s exactly what I did, until….

For the most part, it was fine. I started out farming around neighbors that I knew and were farmers themselves. As I grew and expanded acreage, I was dealing with neighbors that had never experienced farming firsthand.

I thought this was going to be great. I’ll prove to them how safe and unintrusive raising corn and soybeans really is. So, I would stop and introduce myself and give them the whole rundown. As expected, the bulk of the questions revolved around spraying. They wanted to know how those “chemicals” were going to affect them.

Is it poison?

I heard it will kill my garden.

Will it make my cat sick?

Being the optimistic young farmer, I explained everything, and at the end of the visit all seemed well. They had my phone number, and I told them to call if they had concerns.

I’d generally text the day before, saying I was going to be spaying soon. That’s when it began. The phone would ring, and the questions would start. I remember the one neighbor saying the wind isn’t predicted to blow away from his house and didn’t want me to spray. This particular farm surrounded his house on 3 sides and waiting for a perfectly south wind wasn’t an option. I assured him that if the wind wasn’t low we wouldn’t spray, and that I was adding drift retardant.

As I began spraying the next day, I see him out in his yard. He had taken the day off of work because he was worried about my spraying. And of course that night…. I get a phone call. He was “deathly ill” because of the spray (it was glyphosate and atrazine). He continued to tell me, that as he stood on his porch, he felt the spray “raindrops” covering him.

The wind was nonexistent that day, so I was certain there was no drift. I told him if that was the case then his entire yard would be killed (it of course wasn’t). It didn’t matter, he was convinced I had sprayed him. I told him to contact the Department of Agriculture and tell them. From what I gathered he called the sheriff and the EPA. Long story short… nothing came of it.

A similar situation happened with another neighbor a few years later. A different neighbor said the spray vapors almost caused him to pass out. Now I don’t doubt he could catch a wiff of what I was spraying but it was complete and utter exaggeration. He also said the NH3 vapors were killing his cats.

In both cases these guys started demanding things.

Notification before I enter the field.

No spaying if there is wind over 2 MPH

Video proof of adding drift retardant.

Now nothing I had done had hurt these guys or their property in any way. I was not going to be bullied into a bunch of BS requirements. So, I just sprayed when I had to. And they continued to rattle their sabers, threatening legal action, and blah blah blah…. I’m 100% legal and am a good neighbor.

So what do I tell a young farmer about neighbor relations?

Keep it simple. Introduce yourself, and exchange contact information.

I personally would not inform them of anything you aren’t legally obligated to.

It’s not ideal, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

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