That’s not a call any farmer wants to get, but that’s the call we got the other night. Firefighters were called out to one of our fields when someone saw smoke billowing from it. By the time they were able to put it out, several acres were completely ruined. The firefighters had to chase several groups of teens from the property while they were battling the blaze. They determined it was set intentionally.
After that call, mom was in tears and the frustration was clearly etched across dad’s face.
The farm is located next to a residential neighborhood closer to town. That fact didn’t stop us from renting it, however, because never in a million years did we think that would be a problem. With other fields, we usually give neighboring kids rides on the tractors or in the combine. Dad will drive over when they’re in the yard watching us so they can meet a farmer. We love introducing young people to agriculture! We don’t assume that the people next door are going to be a problem; quite the opposite, really.
We should have known though. When my brother was planting this spring, some of the younger adolescents came out next to the field to flip him off. Later, when dad went over to the farm to spray, he noticed that some of the grass on that side of the field had been burned. It was disconcerting, but we never suspected that there was criminal activity taking place.
Apparently, we were wrong.
While an officer was present during the 2 1/2 hours it took the firefighters to put out the blaze, according to his incident report, he was only there to “protect the fire equipment.” As firefighters worked to quell the flames, we were told teens were still running around starting new fires! The next morning, when mom and dad went to file a report, they were told no because “no one was hurt.” Unless they could identify who did it, there was no point in filing a report. Surprisingly, local law enforcement seemed disinterested.
It sucks. We work so hard all year. Someone can take it away from us without absolutely any consequences or remorse. Thousands of dollars just went up in flames, and we still have to pay for the seed, fuel, fertilizer, and pesticides required to raise that corn. All that hard work completely ruined just for fun.
The farm economy is in the tank right now and we’re living on super thin margins. Those acres could be a really big deal, especially because we expect really good yields from that farm. Crop insurance isn’t available for this, and our farm insurance is still looking into coverage.
Yet no one seems to care. There is no investigation. There is no apology. There is no answer. My parents went to the field after they were turned away from creating a report. Mom just stood there crying. She said it was littered with paper and materials the teens had used to start the fires. We’re terrified to go back and pick that field.
As farmers, we work too had for this result, especially when it stems from criminal behavior that is being completely ignored. I wish I had something insightful and inspiring to say here to try to make sense of what or why it happened. But, this time, I don’t.
I’m too heartbroken.