One of the benefits of growing up a farm kid was that we had several hundred acres to use as our playground. It was great and we definitely took advantage of it. Even today I relish the fact that our home has so much open land around it.
Unfortunately, not everyone respects that the land is private property.
We’ve had a slew of neighbor kids using our farm as their personal playground – riding dirt bikes, making crop circles in the corn, and setting up tents to camp. Perhaps what is more infuriating is that their parents think nothing of it or even condone such behavior (worse, participate in it!). Adults also take advantage of all that open space, especially when it comes to hunting season. I mean, what do personal property rights matter?
If you’re even thinking about just using someone else’s property as your own, here are 6 reasons you should not go into a farmer’s field or on private property without permission, even if it feels like a really good idea.
1. Respect Private Property Rights
The traditional American dream usually includes owning your own little piece of land. There’s nothing quite like knowing that the property is yours, all yours. As they taught us in law school, ownership is supposed to come along with certain rights, including the right to exclude others.
Think about it – the property owner paid a price for that property, they pay taxes on that property, they take care of that property, and they are responsible for that property.
Literally, when you flaunt private ownership of property by using it as your own without permission, you’re squashing that little piece of the American dream. One day, you may own property too. Trust me, you’ll want others to respect your property rights.
2. You May Hurt the Crops
Not all of our farmland is contiguous, which means it is spread out over our area. While that has advantages and disadvantages, it ultimately means we can’t have eyes on all of our property at one time. Across the street from one of our properties with a barn, we have a neighbor and friend that keeps an eye out for the property and generally pays attention to what’s happening. This year, she said she didn’t even realize that we had planted the field until she saw the crop popping up!
The fact is, you may just think that field is a bunch of empty dirt that doesn’t have a crop in it yet. So, what’s the harm in playing in there; right? Not so fast. If our watchful neighbor didn’t even know it was planted, there is also a good chance you won’t know it’s planted either. If you start playing in that field, by riding motorbikes or playing football, you might end up hurting a crop (or cover crops!) that is already planted.
If you don’t know, it’s best to assume that there is something planted in the field.
3. You Don’t Know What’s Been Applied to the Field
Just like you don’t know if something is planted in a field, you also don’t know if we’ve applied some type of pesticide or fertilizer to the field. Oftentimes, we spray weed killer on a field even before we plant. While these chemicals are safe to use when applied according to the label, it doesn’t mean you should be out playing in them.
This spring we had a little boy riding his bike down the road. He decided to stop and start eating what he thought was honeysuckle (it wasn’t) out of the field. The problem is he obviously had no idea what the plant was, or whether that field had been sprayed with something.
Unless you’ve been told otherwise, assume the field has just been sprayed.
4. You Could Get Hurt
We have a problem in our area with sink holes. Our county drain just isn’t properly taken care of and these large holes with running water tend to open up in our fields. We know where they are, because we know where the drains run, and we can avoid them with our equipment. You and your kids don’t know where they are. You don’t know where the danger lies. Once weeds and crops start growing up, these things can get harder to see, and falling into it could have devastating consequences.
But that’s not the only thing that might hurt you. Poison ivy. Ravines and drop offs. Sprinklers. Equipment.The reality is, you just don’t know what’s in the field, you don’t know what needs to be avoided, and you can definitely get hurt.
No, I’m not so worried about you suing the farmer – you’re a trespasser so good luck with that. But this should be a deterrent from going onto property without permission.
5. It Could Be Criminal….Or You Could Get Sued
Going onto someone’s property without permission has an official name: trespassing.
Not only can trespassing have criminal consequences, it can also have civil consequences. No, you probably won’t go to jail or prison, but you could be on the hook for some nice fines. You may also have to pay for any damage you did while on the property, including to any crops.
Really, is camping in the corn field worth having a criminal record? I think not.
6. You’re Hurting Your Neighbors
If none of the above reasons convince you that you should respect private property rights, consider that your actions are hurting your neighbors. These are the people that you have to live next to, borrow sugar from, and see on a daily basis. It isn’t worth spoiling that relationship when you could just as easily act like a real neighbor and ask permission. Having a good relationship with the people you live near, or even the people in your community, is going to benefit you more than a few minutes of fun.
Just don’t do it.
Here’s the deal – if you want to pitch a tent, ride your motorbike, hunt, fish, or whatever else, then ask for permission. It’s seriously the easiest thing you can do and you will avoid all of the problems listed. We’ve let plenty of people enjoy our land and we have shared in the past. But you have to be respectful enough to ask.