The Free Press—our ticket to safety
I read with interest the recent letter to the editor from Cynthia Herbst and respond on behalf of my father, Lowell Trom.
Thankfully, my family has no intention of drinking the “modern agriculture” Kool-aide – code words used by the industry to promote large industrial factory farms. The “modern agriculture” chant has been repeated over and over again in Dodge County and dozens of other communities in rural America seeking to promote large corporate factory farms.
“Modern agriculture” promotes super-sized confinement facilities that hold thousands of animals; the use of antibiotics or hormones to foster faster growth; the use of manure pits that hold massive amounts of raw manure; the vertical integration model that allows the industry to control the process from producer to consumer; and a business model that has little or no regard for environmental quality, human health, safe food, humane treatment of animals and the rural economy. Maybe contract farmers will stop drinking the “modern agriculture” Kool-aid when they realize they have been played by large corporate interests who seek to take control of the food supply while taking advantage of unsuspecting farmers who sign on the dotted line.
Ms. Herbst threatens to cancel her subscription, a common tactic used by industry folks to silence opposition and the media. We are thankful for a free press, as it has been our ticket to safety. It’s important for Dodge County residents to finally understand that my family went to the press, not to grab headlines, but for our own safety. My family has endured repeated harassment and intimidation since initiation of the first lawsuit against Dodge County and area swine operators in May 2014, including constant garbage dumped in our roadside ditches and driveway, recent dumping of blue farm booties every few feet along the township road, a large piece of metal that was hidden in the tall grass and damaged our mower, bullet holes that were shot in the stop sign just a few hours after my brother and I pulled weeds from the field just a few feet away, pure Roundup that was sprayed on the neighbor’s corn field and caused thousands of dollars of damage (which we are quite confident was intended for our field given the proximity to other events), false telephone calls by industry folks to the sheriff’s department (not to report some illegal activity but to put the heat on my family and get us to shut up), harassing late night phone calls to my father, including such comments as “Have you changed yet?” and other harassing tactics.
The industry has been successful for years in silencing opposition by calling employers and threatening local businesses, including local newspapers. My family finally had the courage to speak out publicly. The harassment and intimidation experienced by my family is consistent with the pattern of harassment and intimidation targeted at other farm families across rural America who oppose factory farms. It’s not opinion, Ms. Herbst, it’s fact.
What do we tell our children if they’re picked on by a bully – to tell on the bully. So, we’re telling on the bully. We will continue to report all activity to the local sheriff’s department, request extra patrol near our family farm and go to the press, if necessary. It’s a shame what is happening in rural America and, yes, it’s happening right in Dodge County. We will not be silenced by industry bullies.
There is a ray of hope in this gloomy story. Recently, a Good Samaritan, undoubtedly aware of the repeated harassment against my family, picked up garbage that was dumped in our roadside ditch hours earlier. Thank you for your showing of humanity.
Sonja Trom Eayrs grew up in Westfield Township on the south end of Dodge County. Her father, Lowell Trom, still farms at the age of 89. Trom Eayrs has been instrumental in founding Dodge County Concerned Citizens, a group fighting large feedlot operations in rural America.