Monday, June 14, 2010

Bruised but not beaten

I’m feeling a bit bruised today. I’ve blogged before about the Simpler Living column that I write for Bankrate Canada – well, earlier today I discovered an older column I’d written last November had been picked up by MSN Money.

The title: “Moving to the country: a big mistake?

Hmm. That’s not the original headline. It was “Simpler Living: A year in review” as it was a reflection on our first year on the farm and some of the lessons we learned. (If you’re interested, read it here.)

Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to read several comments from people who had either made the same move or grew up in the country.

Then there was one reader, "barnyard betty", who left six -- yes six! -- comments. Here’s just a sample of what he had to say:

“Boy am I ever glad that you decided to do what you did. Unfortunately it's folks like you that have succeeded in destroying the way of life that we had, one that you so dearly desire.

Having being born and raised in a rural farm setting, it was in my blood to be the kind of person that most city dwellers seem to dream about being.

Unfortunately, because of the greed and unwillingness of those of you that would rather escape the "urban prisons" that you have created, you have decided to call the country your new found paradise, driving us out.

Well, I have news for you, you will never be accepted totally in your lifetime plainly because you serve no real need to be there.”

Apparently, we are the cause of soaring land prices, wildlife habitat disruption, a shrinking water table, a too big horse population, the break-up of useable farmland, the introduction of a redundant urban culture and an entire municipal infrastructure gone out of whack. Oh, we also drive our neighbours crazy asking stupid questions that would be common sense because we never realized that we have to learn how to live wherever we move to.

The positive side, said this commenter/ranter/flamer, is that most folks such as us return to the city after only five years. But that only opens the doors to “second rounders,” who are worse than the first, whose only goal in life is to mow grass.

The bottom line is: we serve no purpose and we’re wasting valuable real estate, robbing someone of the opportunity to use our land for what it is for - farming.

“Do I hate her,” writes barnyard betty. “No. Do I dispise [sic] was she’s doing? Absolutely!”


Being a writer, I know my words are fair game. After eight years of doing this, I’ve yet to develop a thick skin. So even though rants on the Internet are commonplace and criticisms like this come with the territory, this one really pissed me off.

So I fought back in the most diplomatic way I could: I wrote a comment back.

“I'm chiming in a bit late to this discussion but... to all of you who made constructive comments, thank you. We've been on our farm for almost two years now and yes, it has been an adventure. We knew before moving here that it would be a big adjustment and a lot of work but there is a difference between knowing and experiencing. Still we're "cutting it" just fine.

@barnyardbetty -- to be honest, I am shocked and saddened by your comments. To say that, "folks like you have succeeded in destroying the way of life that we had" is both ignorant and inaccurate. You don't know me. You know nothing about me. If you did, you'd know that I am not that person that you have described, nor are many folks who move to the country for more than just the "idyllic lifestyle".

My family and are deeply committed to the ecological preservation of our land and the land surrounding it; we practice water conservation and live a responsible lifestyle that is light on the earth. We are deeply committed to our farm and our long-term future here. We also don't have television, we help our neighbours whenever we can (and then do so in return because they 'get' what we're doing here) and I am not the Starbucks-drinking, antiquing kind. I'm the one helping our goat deliver triplets in the middle of the night or assisting our vet with castrations or our farrier with hoof trimming or mucking out the barn by hand or sweating it out in our huge vegetable garden.

We moved from suburbia where prime farmland was being paved over for development -- where's your venom for developers? Farmers are being driven out of work because of cheap imported food -- am I responsible for that? No.

Besides, what gives you the right to judge who is and who is not worthy to live in the country, who serves a real need? Yes, I was born and raised in the city and I have made a decision to live my life and raise my children in the country. Blood has nothing to do with it. It's about respect for our new home and community, and I have plenty of that. And by the way -- my husband now works in town. Seems to me he's been accepted there just fine.

Yes, we bought an existing farm -- one that had fallen into disrepair and neglect over the years. We are bringing it back INTO production so no, we're not robbing anyone of a farming opportunity. It's a slow road because we are not some self-made "tycoon".

And your rants about the horse industry? Take it elsewhere.

If this is your truth, I'm sorry for you. Your misdirected comments are full of condescension, intolerance and hate and there is no place for that anywhere, whether you live in the country or not.”

Why am I sharing this? I’m not sure. I don’t really want to give more exposure to this anonymous hate mongerer. (It’s really easy to spew shit when you’re behind a keyboard, isn’t it?)

Maybe because this is a place where I can set the record “straight.” Or at least put forth our side of the story: that we’re doing our best here.

Then again, perhaps it’s just to say, “Bugger off, barnyard betty!”


kelly said...

Believe me, you ARE doing a good thing. Thanks for your posts.

Fiona said...

Thanks for your comment, Kelly. And your kinds words :)

Erin said...

Wow. Unbelievable. Driving them out? What I would like to say to farmers who feel they have been driven out: "Ask yourselves why are you being deprived of your farm?" Is it because after generations of monoculture and ignorance of changing ways and preserving the land, the land stopped working for them? I would, too! Granted, there are many out there that "move to the country" and bring with them SUV's full of city stuff and ideals, but to lump together those people with the ones that are doing everything in their power to preserve and protect the life and land they have chosen is just plain ignorant. I remember reading your column back then and thinking to myself that it was inspiring and at the same time causing those that would jump the gun to think things through before leaping. Well done, Fiona!

SweetMissDaisy (Anna Wight) said...

Well said! :)

fullfreezer said...

Very well spoken. I grew up on a farm, moved into the city and have recently moved back out into the country. Unfortunately, where I live, too much farmland is being swallowed up by suburban sprawl. We are trying to rehab our old house and bring the land back after years of mistreatment.
Keep up the good work.

laura said...

Having stood in both places, I can say that I understand both points of view. I married into the country way of life, embraced it, and was upset when 15 years later "city people" moved in and because they were willing and able to spend more for things the cost of housing and everything else went up. We actually couldn't afford to live there anymore and had to move away. Now I'm someone else's "outsider" that moved into their country. I can only try not to repeat the mistakes I've seen others make, live like the locals and earn their respect. I see that is what you have done and that is why you will succeed. I only wish everyone did that.

Thistledog said...

Very nice response, Fiona. I'd not have been so pleasant, I'm sure. You obviously were the target of some very misplaced vitriol, poor man pro'ly worked himself into acid reflux writing that.

I'm so very appreciative of what y'all are doing with your life and your energy. Thanks also from me for your posts, they're quite inspirational.

Ruralrose said...

First time here, came in from Erin's blog. You are doing are very good thing, as one Canadian to another, thanks. Peace

Fiona said...

Thanks everyone! Your comments mean a lot. Truly.

Laura -- even though I was terribly hurt by what this person wrote, a part of me did get his point. I know people who are like he described. Then in our neck of the woods, there are a lot of folks who feel this way towards cottagers who are pushing housing prices through the roof. They come here for the summer and act like they own the place. The same holds true to farms in other places. So I do get it, I just don't want to be lumped into that group.

Fiona said...

Hi Ruralrose -- welcome and thanks for stopping by!

MaineCelt said...

Keep the farm faith, Sister! What you are doing is full of honest effort, clear intention and integrity and therefore worthy of praise.

Ol' Barnyard's words should be harnessed for one of those nifty weed-flamer gadgets--they sure can scorch, but they oughtta be focused somewhere else where they can accomplish something useful!

Oz said...

Fiona, This is what ought to be said to Barnyard Betty...

"Why Banyard Betty, when your ancestors came to this country and began farming, did they not do the same thing? Wow, starting a new life has never been so revolting, has it?"

Seriously, if they don't like that other people are living a similar lifestyle, then its' their problem and honestly.. they should keep it to themselves. Keep it up, your farm is fantastic.

Steph (who has a family farm!) said...

Oh just tell 'barnyard betty'
to kiss your overall sh-i-te covered may have grown up in a city but you are no city-idiot my farm loving, eco friendly U of G friend!

Claire said...

I find your choices absolutely inspirational! (And I want to get you down to Dal to speak to our College of Sustainability one day!) That was a wonderful 'rebuttal' or articulation of your values & commitment.

Lots of hugs -

Mama Pea said...

First, I know Barnyard Betty hurt you with his poisonous darts and for that I empathize. I believe he wanted to hurt because that, for some misguided reason, makes him feel better. He has to be a very unhappy person for whom we can only feel sorry.

Secondly, your rebuttal was eloquent.

Dwarbz said...

Being driven out!
Its so easy to be bitter & blame other people for your own failure. It takes hard work, common sense, vision & more hard work to make it work in the country.
I to have been critisized by some for being a citiot (city-idiot) & turning my beaten up traditional & twice unsuccesfull goat farm into a neat looking horse farm.
Unless you're (for example) Amish, you have to evolve & move with the times.
Barnyard Betty's blood line lacks vision, they're stubborn, set in their ways & not willing or able to think out of their comfort zone.
Unlike Fiona & her family!
Keep up the good work, shit like that shouldn't bruise or hurt because its not true! D.

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