I feel it is time to reply to the negative remarks made about me and my family by people who do not personally know us. I have been astonished by the way these people have acted, the things that they have said and the actions that they have taken.
In the Administration Hearing Commission (AHC) hearing, Mrs. Sweeney admitted that she had repeatedly trespassed by taking pictures at a gate 40 feet onto my property after being notified by the sheriff's department and asked to stop. They have also continuously taken aerial photos. We have nothing to hide on this farm, but shouldn't we be able to live without harassment continuously.
Mrs. Sweeney also was quoted as saying in the first AHC hearing that because of my farm she was afraid that she would have to use her oxygen during the day, which she already uses at night. My suggestion for her is to quit smoking and she might not need it at all.
Mr. Reidel asked a very interesting question in the last hearing. He asked "Did you know that you could drink the water from a properly running septic tank?" He is a braver person than I am.
Mr. Stevenson has continually claimed to have a family farm adjoining my farm. The truth is that Brooks Investment Company, his employer, of Joplin, owns the property. Mr. Stevenson comes to the property to vacation; he does not vote or pay taxes in this area. He has claimed to want to keep this area natural and beautiful, yet has told several people that they plan to develop the property in the future. It is not hard to see his agenda and it's money. Do you think they would complain if 50 septic tanks went into that land?
These people claim to be my concerned neighbors. Who do you consider to be a neighbor - those who live one, five or 65 miles away? How about those living in other states? Neighbors are not strangers to each other.
I have also been amazed by the fact my farm has continuously moved. It has been said that our farm has been one-half mile, one mile, one and a half miles and two miles from Roaring River State Park. The truth is that we are four and a half miles from the camping and fishing area. We are also about that far from the lake.
The run-off from this farm that my opponents keep talking about would have to travel 1.2 miles to reach Roaring River according to DNR. My opponents have not been able to explain how this run-off would supposedly become contaminated by litter that is stored in a shed until removed.
Farms are not what they used to be in the past. In 1920, a farmer put food on the table for 20 people annually, in 1950, it was almost twice as many, in 1970 it was 100, and in the present, it is 130. I remember when my grandpa farmed this land and had his 20 beef cows, a milk cow, a dozen chickens and a few pigs. That is a very fond memory, but that is not today's farming world.
The world around us is changing everyday. It has always been a person's right to farm their land as they feel best as long as they follow the rules. Have we lost that right?
I followed the rules and still I am continuously attacked and have been dragged to Jefferson City twice to fight for that right. It has become exhausting and expensive, yet I must continue to fight for my family and my fellow farmers. I cannot afford to lose this fight financially or emotionally. If they were to get my operating permit revoked, I would lose this farm and my family would be put on the street. No matter what the cost, I cannot lose. To them it is a point; to me, it is my livelihood.
The only evidence they seem to come up with why I should not have my permit is paperwork errors that have been taken care of and rectified. We never went against the stay order, because the only thing that was covered by this order was the construction of the buildings, not the equipment. DNR came out to our farm and investigated this and said that we were in total compliance.
The real truth of the matter is that these people just don't want this here, but the fact is it is here and I have every right to build these barns and raise these chickens. Is that not the American way?
It is hard to make a living in Barry County. Some of usare not privileged enough to be retired or to have the money to own a lake property to visit when we want to get away and relax; we have to work to support our families. I have heard many times that my opponents are fighting big business and politicians; that is far from the truth. Since when did a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother of three become big business or political?
I am thankful George's has given me the privilege to raise these pullets for them. The fact is that if I was not raising them, it would be someone else. George's has nothing invested in this farm except for their trust in me that I will do my very best job possible. If my opponents want to get political, they should contact their legislators and try to have the law changed, but that has nothing to do with me or this farm.
I have every right as the laws stand today to raise chickens on this farm. I would like to also suggest to the other farmers and concerned citizens in this area to contact our legislators to voice your concerns before it is too late. I am very worried about the future of this area. We have many family farms in this area that have been owned for generations. My opponents have already suggested that there be a buffer around state parks and national forest from five to 10 miles to restrict the types of farms and the amount of livestock that those farms could own. How many farms in this area would be affected? Too many to count.
When is enough, enough? I am now going to be dragged to a week-long hearing to fight for this farm in January. It will cost me thousands of more dollars and a week away from my family. Will it ever end and will these people ever be happy short of me tearing the barns down? That won't happen. I would just like to warn all farmers that this is our future if we don't stand up for our rights. You could be next.
I feel the need to address Mrs. Sweeney's view of a real farm, because I believe she is misinformed. A real farmer is one who produces the food that feeds this nation. We are the ones who spend night and day working the land and raising the best quality meats and produce to be shipped to factories for packaging for your convenience.
We are not the hobby farmers with a petting zoo in their backyard. If it were not for us real farmers in Barry County and across our great nation, you would be depending on foreign food markets. Do you feel safe in that? I don't. So instead of attacking us you should be thanking us for the food on your table.
To point fingers at farmers for the world's pollution problems is wrong. Every person pollutes to some degree. We try our best to follow the guidelines and keep our world clean and beautiful. We are not doing this hard work just for ourselves; we do it for the people of this nation.
I know that my words won't change the opinion of this opposition, but at least now many others know more about the matter. This information was not found on the internet, but from such places as the Department of Agriculture. For months you have read my name printed in one article after another. Today, you read it at the closing of this true and factual letter.
Eagle Rock, Missouri