Published in The Republican Newspaper 11/12/15
To the Editor:
My husband and I own an organic farm (uncertified) in West Virginia, now finishing its ninth season. We have participated in the Oakland fresh market for five years. As vendors, we recently attended a market dinner and heard a representative of the Farm Bureau speak. We were surprised when he said the bureau's stance on fracking is the same as the environmentalists, considering the numbers he shared ($7,000/mo. for landowners) offer farmers a get-rich-quick scheme without being honest about the associated dangers to the farmland and water.
We know about the hard decisions associated with signing away a farm's mineral rights. Six years ago, several landowners in Preston County were working together to broker a deal with the gas companies. We attended the meetings and spent endless hours in debate. We didn't want to be left with poisoned land that we couldn't farm or sell. We had two small children, and were putting every penny we had back into the farm; we didn't have a backup plan or off-farm jobs to fall back on.
Reluctantly, we signed the papers because we feared our farm would be ruined by others' nearby wells. Luckily, the eastern block of land centered in the Cranesville Swamp area was cut loose. We were grateful that circumstances had kept us from making such a terrible mistake, and if they come asking again, we'll say no this time around.
There are lots of different ways to farm, but the simple truth is that farmers don't farm for the paycheck at the end of the year. If so, we'd go find a much easier way to make that money. We keep coming back because of our love of the land and because we're stubborn, salt-of-the earth people, who enjoy pitting ourselves against things beyond our control.
It is not my place to speak for all farmers. But I do urge my fellow farmers to really research fracking. Don't ignore the reports of environmental impacts on the land. Drilling companies are working to return as little of their profits to landowners as possible. History speaks loud and clear on this: Big companies aren't looking out for us. We must look out for ourselves, stand together, and send the message that our beautiful land should stay healthy and farmable.
Sunshine Vortigern Cranesville, West Virginia