Another difficulty is that new neighbors think the farmers are getting wealthy, Grooms said. They see all of the land, workers and water use and don’t understand it’s costing the farmer money.
The day after Hurricane Wilma brought six inches of water, Fancy Farms irrigated its 150 acres of strawberries, a process that brought puzzled looks from passersby who assumed he was wasting water, he said. They didn’t understand that the plants needed the water to keep them cool because they hadn’t been in the ground long enough.
Sharing the bounty
Farmers can try to minimize the impact on the community, suggested Hinton. If possible, work in the fields when there is little wind or when it’s heading away from developed areas.
“We’ll try to work around weather and minimize impact while doing what we have to do to stay in business,” he said.
When fumigating, it’s a good idea to have definite timelines and geographic locations. Many growers wait to use crop protection until night so they can spray without interfering with the community. It’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind,” Hinton said.
Frequent inspections of migrant housing ensure farmers are minimizing relationship problems, he said.
Don’t underestimate the power of offering a basket of strawberries, Hinton said. A personal relationship with neighbors is crucial to understanding. It’s important for farmers to take the first step to make newcomers feel like part of the area.
Sharing strawberries also can prevent neighbors, especially children, from going into the fields and picking their own, Whidden said. This can be dangerous if you’ve just sprayed or if you’ve left equipment outside.
Gradually neighbors will recognize the benefits of living near growers. Farmers are usually around and can let them know if someone is messing around their place, Whidden said. And farmers usually live next to the farm, so neighbors realize that what they are complaining about, the grower is living with too, she said.
Whidden also encourages farmers who live near subdivisions to post signs that explain the right to farm. This can reduce calls to the police department for noise or odor complaints.