Letter: A request for neighborliness, not an assault on farming

With all due respect to the farming community of Rappahannock County, many members of which I count among my lifelong friends, I must respond to the letter of last week [“Anti-farming assault hurts my ears,” Sept. 26] in reference to the propane cannon in the small orchard in Sperryville.

Emma Hathaway, who by way of disclosure is my niece, was accurate in her description of the booming sounds that come from that orchard, approximately every 15 minutes, from dusk till dawn. I don’t know if she was accurate or not in her statement that the sound is now wasted as the deer have become acclimated to it, but what little common sense I have, gleaned from some observation over the years, tells me that she is probably right, as most animals do in fact become acclimated to a constant sound or sight.

What Emma did not point out is that there are four houses, a school and a business all within earshot of that “cannon,” all of which were there before the orchard was put in. I own one of those houses, a rental which is the closest to the orchard, and I am in the unfortunate position of having my tenants about to move out due to constant disruption of their sleep, again from the cannon. And these are not “misplaced folks” living in the middle of an agricultural area, these are houses (and a business and a school) which have been in place anywhere from 20 to 200 years, putting up with a not-insignificant distraction from an orchard put in place approximately four years ago.

Emma’s complaint, and by extension my own, was not an “assault on farming” but rather an objection to one property owner’s auditory assault on his neighbors. Being a good neighbor is a two way street — I am surrounded by farmland at my residence in Laurel Mills and I am careful of tractors on the road, attentive to downed fences and straying animals and generally supportive of my farming neighbors’ efforts to make an agricultural living.

But my farming neighbors are also careful of my rights as a resident landowner, asking permission when they need to cross my property and even alerting me during hunting season when they know they have hunters on property that borders my own. And they certainly do not subject me to a noise barrage that would make me think I live in a war zone rather than an agricultural one.

Mr. Freitag suggests that my niece offer her services as “night deer watchman” for the neighboring orchard; from that are we to assume that all the vineyards and other orchards in this county, which surely have the same issue with deer, employ such people? I had no idea such a service industry existed and truthfully doubt that it does, again relying on my perhaps limited common sense. But I also doubt that all these other orchards and vineyards have come up with a solution that involves an assault on their neighbors’ ears, as is happening in my little part of Sperryville.

I have to believe that the existence of deer in this orchard, built right next to the Shenandoah National Park, hardly came as a surprise to the orchard owner. I also have to believe that whatever solutions are available to the other orchards and vineyards are also available to this orchard owner in Sperryville.

And I believe that he chose the least expensive “solution,” which has turned into a very expensive problem for his neighbors. My and my niece’s objections to his solution are neither an “uninformed assault on the right to farm” nor part of a “continuing barrage of complaints against our farming community.” They are simply reasonable requests to be a good neighbor, treating those who were here long before you with the respect and good will that the Rappahannock farmers I count among my friends are renowned for.

Jimmy Swindler
Laurel Mills

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