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Developing and maintaining good neighbor relations is important for all livestock and poultry farmers.
Neighbors may complain about the noise or odors from your farm, or about agricultural practices — such as the application of pesticides or fertilizer — simply because they do not understand why these activities are necessary.
In addition, many residents are concerned about environmental quality and the possible ways agriculture can affect the water they drink or water used for fishing or other recreational activities. It is also important to realize that farm and non-farm neighbors have a lot in common.
They care about their community and want to provide their family with the benefits of rural living. Farmers greatly benefit from being good neighbors. These benefits include pleasant relationships, maintaining a way of life, and ensuring the future success of the agricultural business.
Being a good neighbor means being considerate and responsible, and it means communicating with your neighbors. Farmers can reduce issues by giving some thought to their farming practices. It is much easier and cheaper to simply prevent problems from escalating into conflict by communicating and building a trusting relationship with your neighbors. By doing this, it will also be much easier to discuss problems when they arise.
The first step to achieving and maintaining a positive relationship with the public is to behave in a responsible manner. Comply with all regulations and, where possible, exceed minimum environmental standards. Respect and appreciate neighbors’ concerns about your operation’s impact on their quality of life and property values.
Appearance and neighbor relations should be a consideration when locating and managing a livestock or poultry facility. Well-maintained buildings and landscaping indicate that the producer and his/her employees are concerned about the environment. Trees and shrubs help screen facilities and can reduce odor and noise. Manure storage and other necessary parts of the operation commonly associated with odor should be located as far from public view as possible. The direction of prevailing winds should be considered in locating livestock and poultry production facilities.
The third step is to emphasize your positive behaviors and actions and improve the public’s understanding of agriculture.
Consider the following:
- Get to know your neighbors. Getting to know your neighbors is the most important and simplest action you can take to help minimize conflicts. Knowing your neighbors, communicating, and having an “open door” policy makes it more likely that when they have a concern about your farm operation – such as noise or odor – they will call you directly to work it out instead of using other avenues, such as county or state governmental agencies or “word of mouth” gossip throughout the community. It also means that when you have a complaint about a neighbor — such as trespassing or littering — that they may be more open to discussing it with you.
- Talk to your neighbors. According to many farmers, talking with your neighbors and letting them know what you are doing is very important. Farmers who take the time to explain their practices often head off conflicts with neighbors.
Keep your neighbors informed of pending changes and actions, such as communicating manure or pesticide management plans, including times and potential locations for application. Working with your neighbors, determine dates or locations that should be avoided. Notify your neighbors of any changes you propose and explain changes in detail.
When new neighbors move into the community, visit with them and invite them to visit the farm. If you have a lot of neighbors, consider developing a newsletter to be sent on a regular basis to neighbors to keep them informed about what’s going on at the farm.
Be a good neighbor yourself. If you expect your neighbors to be good neighbors, you must also be a good neighbor to them. Being neighborly means being friendly to your neighbors, helping them when needed, and being willing to accommodate them. Good neighbor strategies should include the following considerations:
Just use common sense. Simply using common sense can make a big difference in minimizing conflicts with neighbors. The timeliness of farming means that you sometimes do not have much choice about when you plant, spray or harvest. Often, however, you do have some control over when you do farm tasks. Applying manure on holiday weekends or a day when you know a neighbor is planning a picnic or cookout or spraying chemicals on a windy day, for example, will do little to build community harmony. Cleaning equipment and making sure it is operating properly can minimize the chance of manure, mud, or something else being dropped onto a public roadway. If something is deposited onto a public road by your equipment and machinery, clean it up immediately — never allow it to remain on the road for any period of time!
Timing is everything. Develop a farm management plan that takes into account neighbors as well as the environment, while maximizing the value of farm inputs (manure, fertilizers, pesticides, feed, etc.). Take time to explain what you do and why. For example, spreading manure on cropland recycles nutrients and puts the manure to productive use. Carefully select manure application locations to minimize the chances of odors coming in contact with nearby residences.
When planning a new farm facility, there are many factors to consider.
Among one of the most important decisions is to decide where to build. Consider location and visibility when planning new facilities or modifying existing sites. Consider distance from roads, neighbors, public areas (parks, streams, schools, churches, lakes, etc.). Study prevailing wind patterns and topography and consider how neighbors might be affected by odors. With existing facilities, consider utilizing fences and trees that provide windbreaks and dilute odors by mixing them with air currents and turbulence.
Ohio livestock and poultry farmers should also comply with all regulations. If feasible, go beyond the minimum standards required. If possible, exceed recommended setback requirements, even if setback requirements are voluntary, when building new facilities or modifying existing sites. Some added cost at construction might be money well invested in the long term.
Additionally, doing occasional favors for neighbors can help build positive relationships. If you have a garden, during the summertime, share your bounty of sweet corn or other produce with your neighbors. If you raise livestock, invite your neighbors to the farm for a barbecue or hog roast. If you have a garden tiller or plow, consider plowing your neighbors’ gardens to help them get started in raising produce or flowers.
The appearance of your farm also plays an important role in determining what neighbors and others think about you and your farm operation. A farm that is known as a neighborhood eyesore will have less good will in the community and get less public empathy or sympathy if problems arise. An overwhelming majority of the public only comes in contact with farms when they drive by them, and people who drive by a farm “smell with their eyes, not their noses.”
Don’t overlook safety features that may also contribute to the farm’s aesthetics. Maintain fences and secure areas around all farm storage facilities (grain, fuel, manure, chemicals, etc.) and farm ponds. Keep a life preserver in a conspicuous location at all farm ponds, regardless whether recreational activities occur or are permitted.
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