Hedgerow matter a tough row to hoe in Prince Edward County

If one wants to have a gander into a local version of Pandora’s Box, they probably could start with the question of what will become of fence bottoms in the fields throughout Prince Edward County.

First off, if there’s one thing local farmers complain about more than weather patterns in Prince Edward County, it’s likely input from folks, organizations and governments that have absolutely no financial skin in their operations or even a passing knowledge of current farming practices.

At the end of the day, it’s a farmer’s family name on the side on the barn, it’s their legacy and reputation on the line each growing season and it’s their children who will suffer in the event of a drought or flood.

But what of the climate change issue, wildlife corridors, soil erosion and loss of local character and identity of when it comes to these slivers of green?

Certainly the ecological portions are valid and deserve deeper discussion.

But wind breaks and tree stands are good agricultural components of any farm and most farmers are operating with this understanding. Entrances to fields may need to be changed due to the escalating scale of machinery but I don’t know too many farmers who enjoy watching their topsoil blow away all winter long.

But really? We are going to have a conversation about loss of character and identity in Prince Edward County with fence bottoms as a talking point? There’s a case to be made the current day identity of Prince Edward County has been reduced to a far-off spectacle of its former self and fence bottom removal is well down the list of local transitory concerns.

Long before agriculture became a dirty, four letter word that started with F in this community, it was understood and accepted by virtually all that farmers were indeed stewards of the land.

Sacred land handed down over generations. Fields that at times are green and lush and bountiful and other times are scorched and parched and where the only moisture would be that of tears falling from a farmer’s face.

For those that have never worked soil, planted a row of tomatoes, harvested a field of wheat or stood in the middle of wiped out crop with a letter from the bank in their back pocket, the emotional bond between a farmer and his land and the produce grown (or not, as the weather determines) cannot easily be quantified or explained.

And maybe for those that don’t care to understand that bond, assuming every farmer in Prince Edward County is out ruin the soil, kill vegetation and run off every living animal that might inhabit their home farm in the name of highest possible profit, trying to explain such a position is likely a losing endeavour.

I asked a good farming friend of mine for his take on this matter that’s been thrust into the local spotlight and he said removing a fence bottom here or there wasn’t a problem but when your land starts to look like Saskatchewan-East and the woodpecker needs to pack a lunch when they fly from one tree line to the next, it’s time to reevaluate.

So while there might a mostly united front from local farmers on this matter, it’s somewhat apparent that the neighbour’s fence bottom removal efforts have caught the attention of their cultivating colleagues.

Even if council had adopted the draft amendments as presented Thursday and rushed them into the Official Plan, there would be nothing to stop a farmer from ripping out every fence bottom on his property thanks to provincial legislation prohibiting municipal interference in standard farm practices.

So there’s still time to have a discussion over and above municipal concerns and build a better and more fulsome knowledge base that grows a jointly sourced solution.

But a solution that’s palatable to all can’t come by way of hindering governance measures forced on party with the most to lose and little input into the methodology.