Greg Slipher had a busy Saturday, but he made time to visit Doug Abney's farm near Bargersville. Abney was hosting a regional meeting of the Belted Galloway cattle association. There were farmers there, primarily cattlemen, and although they were from varying parts of the country, Slipher didn't want to pass up the opportunity to tell his story.
Silpher's message is simple and universal: In today's world, you are going to have rural neighbors who aren't farmers or livestock producers.
"You need to respect them and think about what you are doing and how it will affect them," he says. Slipher, an animal specialist with Indiana Farm Bureau, grew up on a hog farm and understands the farmer/neighbor issue. He spends a large part of his time working with situations where conflict has either erupted, or is about to erupt.
Pointing to his head, Slipher makes the point that many of these situations can be avoided if you use common sense and think before you do something.
"You don't want the first time you meet your neighbor to be when you have a manure spill, or when you are at odds in a public hearing," he says. "Get to know them, and let them know why you do what you do on your farm."
Common sense can be as simple as not hauling manure next to a neighbor if you know they're having a big party or cook-out that day, he says. The old argument that "It's my land and I can do what I want when I want" doesn't always fare too well in today's world, he notes. While it's true, it may not meet the "common sense" test.
Slipher also encourages farmers to host open houses or barbecues, maybe once a year, and invite neighbors. While many farmers have done these successfully, it's not a silver bullet. He notes one farmer held one, and only one neighbor showed up.