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It is not OK to trespass, trash, or steal crops on farmers’ property
Dennis Wyatt new mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

The almond grower — just like other farmers — get to deal with those who are self-centered among us who do not respect the property of others.

As one local grower pointed out, following the bees buzzing around orchards in the past week have been those who think it is OK to wander onto someone else’s land even if it is only to snap a few photos using the glorious almond bloom as a backdrop.

In today’s litigious society there are all sorts of concerns on the part of a property owner. What, for example, if someone trips over an irrigation pipe.

This particular grower who described themselves as a small farmer noted that my suggestion to get out and walk or jog along the peripheral of orchards — read that the edge of orchards along roads — is likely to be lost in translation. Peripheral clearly doesn’t mean go through or into the orchard.

They suggested before the next bloom rolls around that I may want to point out, the damage is done for this year.

They added that perhaps the cities could work with a grower and allow the public — for a price — to walk an orchard while inhaling the scent and snapping photos to their heart’s content. Call it ag-tourism.

I disagree. Not with the concept, but that the “damage” is done for the year.

That’s because it never stops.

And by that I mean the wholesale disregard for property rights and outright thievery.

The days will soon arrive when orchards will be ready for harvest.

I can never pass them without recalling a day I spent bicycling from Manteca to Knights Ferry and back in 1992 with the niece of a friend who was visiting from Miami where she served as a Dade County deputy.

As we passed Sexton Road she wanted to take a break. She got off her bicycle and walked into the orchard, stopped at a tree, and reached up and picked an apple.

I asked what she was doing.

She looked at me like I was an idiot before replying, “I’m picking an apple.”

Without missing a beat, I said she was essentially stealing.

I went on to explain what I thought was obvious. The trees just didn’t happen to pop up there given Fuji apples aren’t native to California.

Someone bought the land, pays taxes on the land, works the land, bought trees, bought fertilizer, and bought water. They invested time and money. They also run the risk of bad years wiping out good years. In some cases, the harvest is a family’s only paycheck for a year. And they have to wait two to four years before they start generating income waiting while trees get to the point they can produce a crop.

I asked how she would feel if she had roses in her front yard she bought, planted, pruned picked Japanese beetles off, sprayed for aphids, watered, and fertilizer only to have someone walk into their yard and cut their roses for their own enjoyment once they started blooming.

She said she never thought of it that way, right before she took her first bite.

Perhaps more telling of how dishonest people is an incident that involved former Lathrop Mayor Steve McKee who years ago had an almond orchard along Mathney Road.

One day he came upon a lady who had pulled over and was out in the orchard gathering almonds that had been shaken to the ground.

Steve said he walked up to her and asked what she was doing as she was placing almonds in a box.

Without missing a beat she said the farmer had given her permission to gather the almonds so they would not go to waste.

Anyone who has lived in almond growing areas knows full well that almonds are knocked to the ground and orchards swept twice to collect them. This wasn’t an issue of “excess” almonds falling from the tree and going to waste on the ground.

Steve then indicated he told the woman, that was interesting given he was the farmer that owned the orchard and he never remembered giving her permission to steal his almonds.

The woman — in a huff — knocked over the box, said a few choice words and stormed off to her car.

My “favorite” transgression people commit toward farmers — and the most prevalent — is using their orchards and fields as impromptu dumps for trash as well as pets they’ve tired of.

It takes a lot of unadulterated gall to load up trash, head into the country and look for a spot to toss out old chairs, broken washers and TVs, remodeling debris, bags of garbage or even abandon worthless boats.

It would be poetic justice if a farmer one day loaded up his orchard debris, drove into town, and dumped his trash on the front lawn of those that believe his property is a free dumping ground.

For the record, county spends will over $1 million annually collecting such roadside dumping because most of it ends up in the county right-of-way. What is dumped on the farmers’ property is his responsibility. Quite frankly, I don’t blame the farmer if he pulls such “gifts” left on his land to the roadside for the county to pick up.

Given it doesn’t cost that much to take trash to the transfer station plus each of the cities in the area offer some free pick-up of big items plus there are firms on almost a monthly basis that will come out and haul away old appliances and such the people doing the trashing of the countryside or more lazy than they are cheap.

Perhaps the most inhumane thing to do, if your tired of — or no longer can care for — dogs or cats is to drive into the countryside and drop off your family pet and drive away.

Rest assured farmers aren’t operating rescue operations.

Dogs and cats that are domesticated have a next to impossible challenge surviving in the middle of nowhere.

And as an added bonus besides the dogs or cats starving, getting killed by coyotes, or run over by vehicle there are times farmers have no choice but to kill pets that people believe they are being kind by not surrendering them to an animal shelter.

The best example was in the country southwest of Lincoln where I grew up in Placer County. There were several turkey growers that often had no choice but to kill “strays” people dropped off near their ranch operations after such dogs and cats tried to find refuge with them.

That’s because domesticated pets often carry viruses that have the ability to wipe out an entire flock.

It is why the undersides of vehicles entering shed areas routinely have their undercarriages sanitized.

Turkey growers can't afford to lose their investment and the income they use to feed their families because someone's tired of their pet and instead of doing the right thing and taking it to a shelter they simply dumped it in the country.

And those who take a litter of newborn cats or puppies, stuff them in a bag, tie it, and then toss them out of a window in the countryside as they drive by should know there is a special place in hell waiting for them.


This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.