THE CITY OR THE COUNTRYSIDE?
A few months ago, I was talking about urban agriculture. I would like to address the problem, but this time from a different angle, which city dwellers often see upside down, and which I live daily.
It is not really about urban agriculture, but about agriculture when it is unwittingly confronted with an urban neighborhood.
The development of agriculture in the city is a novelty, and the vast majority is based on organic farming techniques. It uses open spaces to establish agricultural crops. It's not, in general, a profitable agriculture, in the sense that the urban farmer does not seek to derive his main income. It's a complement, a hobby, a pleasure, a personal satisfaction, or an ecological gesture. It does not detract from the value of the action, but it places it on a relatively secondary level, at least from an economic point of view. In some disadvantaged neighborhoods, however, it can really be an important income supplement, or rather an economy on the food budget, with sometimes some very interesting community actions or reintegration.
Cities are growing by consuming agricultural land, nibbling parts of cultivated farms. It's been like that since the first cities were created, about 5,000 years ago.
Look at this Chateau XX, which I mentioned last October. It found itself in the middle of the city, not because of its owner will, but because the city grew. The owners of the castle resisted the buyers and promoters, but not their neighbors. Little by little, the city surrounded the property.
In Europe, according to FAO data, 11 hectares of agricultural land disappears every hour, accounting for about 100,000 hectares per year, buried under dwellings, offices, shopping centers, recreation centers, business parks, sanitary, road or rail infrastructure. It is huge. By comparison, the average yield of 2015 potatoes in the European Union was 33 tons per hectare (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/The_EU_potato_sector_-_statistics_on_production,_prices_and_trade#Farms_and_area). The annual loss of 100,000 hectares of agricultural land is equivalent to the loss of 3,300,000 tons of potatoes. For a population, in 2016 of 508 million inhabitants, this represents a loss of production potential of 6.5 kg of potatoes per capita! And that, every year!
What happens when city dwellers move to the countryside? They realize that agriculture is an activity that operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, with people, machines, noise, odors, in short, what they often regard as nuisances, that they often wished to flee by setting out in the countryside, but which are only an integral and often inevitable part of agricultural activity.
The city dweller does not understand (or refuses to understand), protests and demands. The farmer is almost always obliged to yield.
See this curious case. A couple, in the South of France, is forced by justice, to fill a pond because the frogs disturb the new neighbors: http://immobilier.lefigaro.fr/article/quand-des-grenouilles-bruyantes-font-condamner-des-proprietaires_f812211c-2ee7-11e6-91c1-3e3a0f8cba2d/
See also this very recent case, also in France, much more dramatic, which could oblige a breeder, descendant from 6 generations of breeders, to stop his activity, because the smell of manure disturbs his new neighbors, who came for their retirement: http://www.demotivateur.fr/article/eleveur-depuis-6-generations-il-est-contraint-de-demenager-sa-ferme-car-ses-vaches-derangent-ses-nouveaux-voisins-venus-prendre-leur-retraite-a-la-campagne-10285
This is indicative of a real, increasingly frequent, and everyday situation for many farmers.
Here, for me, it is the nocturnal activities, for example sprayings or the grinding of the wood of pruning, impossible to realize during day during half of the year because of the too high temperatures, which regularly provoke complaints for nocturnal noise , from neighbors, installed in recent dwellings built (guess where) on an expropriated part of the farm.
Livestock generates manure. That's how it's been since the man breeds animals, and it does not always smell good.
Agriculture may need to accumulate or spread manure, to enrich or simply feed the soil, especially in organic farming. It is very healthy, the effluents of the breeding are thus cleanly recycled for plant production.
When the harvest is there, the work is done day and night, because it's necessary to go as quickly as possible, to avoid the risks of rain and overmature.
If a disease or an attack of butterflies threatens crops, sprayings are urgent, even more if they are organic and we must intervene as quickly as possible, day and night.
Several years ago, a huge and brutal outbreak of a Lepidoptera, Plusia gamma, caused terrible damage to many crops in the Seville area. At that time, we were growing asparagus, and in the days following this problem, we could visually determine the first sprayed plots, which were still green, although damaged, and the last, literally peeled by millions of caterpillars hatched at the same time. The production of the following year was clearly affected by this attack, with the progressiveness corresponding to the hour of the spraying. This result showed that we were right not to wait and to spray 24 hours a day as soon as we detected the risk.
Animals also live at night, even if they are farmed animals, and can be noisy.
The preparation of the soil for planting or seedling is done when the soil and the climate allow it, and it is necessary to do things quickly, day and night, on weekdays, on Sundays and on public holidays.
In short, agriculture may be very noisy or smell bad, which does not usually disturb the residents when they are themselves farmers or linked to agriculture.
But for the delicate ears and noses of city dwellers, unwary, unaccustomed, and often unwilling to accept it, it is another story.
Yet many urban dwellers have a dream that some people in Western countries are putting into effect, which is to settle in the countryside, to rest during their holidays or to retire.
Some do this by moving their main residence to the suburbs and green areas around major cities. Others invest in a second home to which they rush as soon as they have time.
In short, they are closer to the farmers who feed them. But do you think they accept nocturnal tractors or manure piles?
No, they protest, sometimes they even go to court. And the worst is that, as in the cases cited, justice unfortunately often gives them right.
They settle down to live idly in a workplace. Yes, the countryside is the workplace of farmers.
Imagine for a second that farmers are going to take a nap in your office or meeting room and that they also request silence!!!!!!!!!
One can summarize, in a somewhat caricatured way, the current situation of relations between the urban world and the agricultural world:
Produce good products, healthy, environmentally friendly, pesticide-free, abundant, not too expensive, but most importantly, without disturbing, making noise or smelling.
I come to you, I enjoy the advantages that are yours, but as I don't intend to share the disadvantages that are yours, I request you to adopt my way of life.
Really? I thought, however, that decolonization had ended in the last century.
I just forgot the colonization of the countryside by towns. Cities conquer, often brutally, even warlike, and settle without any concession or precaution, so that the neighbors could continue to live and work as before.
The responsible for problems is not the colonizer but the colonized.