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Professional hubris?

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Agriculture – November 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado Central:

“Don’t try this at home, sonny?” John Mattingly’s recent essay discouraging non-farmers from food production sounds a bit like he’s not quite far enough afield to be rid of a bit of professional hubris. I have gardened in a backyard in urban Boise, before that in a San Francisco vacant lot with free loads of milorganite trucked in by the city, and there are even those intrepid few who raise food in the south Bronx and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Granted, these efforts have hardly broken the back of agribusiness, and granted, some of these locations are less than organic or sanitary, but thus far no one has perished from the fruits of their labors who wouldn’t have perished sooner or later, and meanwhile the active participants benefit from a sense of personal empowerment otherwise hard to come by in fortress America.

Pilot projects in the Berkeley public school system have been highly praised by all observers for the positive effects on city kids. I myself make a few dollars from mini-greenhouses put together from salvaged lumber and glass on a quarter-acre survival ranchette, thanks to those lessons learned. No doubt you can raise more potatoes per hour with your tractors than I can with my shovel, but here I am as a living refutation to your denial.

And as for Martha’s editorial calling for a revamping of our health care system, which is not working as a free enterprise: Well, yes, but what is working? Education? Commerce? Foreign policy? Electoral politics? The military? The right to privacy or freedom from unreasonable search and seizure? I’m not afraid of more government, I’m just afraid of the people who would twist it to their advantage, the same people who twist privatization in their favor. Maybe that government is best which allows the least advantage. What clause in the constitution suggests that the function of government is the furtherance of business interests?

Perhaps the saddest entries in October’s edition were Cactus Jack’s mocking of Native Americans and the page two essay about shooting wolves as an act of environmental mercy.

It may surprise many cattlemen to learn that it’s entirely possible to live a satisfying life out west without requiring a support system of hundreds or thousands of head of cattle, not to mention large tracts of private land and supplementary public grazing rights, and taxpayer-paid management of predators.

Maybe it’s time to redefine what the good life is and how big a footprint you require to live on planet earth, with none of this self-serving nonsense about a proud family tradition. Be a real pioneer and re-invent yourself from the bottom up.

As for my life in the Valley these days:

It’s hard to be objective with a green whirlybird circling overhead. If you happen to be tripping around on naked rafters with a Skil saw on a long cord and a heavy tool belt dangling from your shoulders, it can be downright unnerving. In the words of a long-ago songwriter: “If I had a rocket launcher, some son-of-a b*tch would pay.”

Maybe I wasn’t entirely objective when I wrote angry letters to the local press, lambasting the sheriff for “conspiracy to brandish a deadly weapon over an entire residential neighborhood.”

Possibly he only had a minor part, like taking custody of a federal suspect. I later heard it said that he doesn’t much like chasing after pot offenders. More embarrassing, I was so steamed up I got his first name wrong.

Maybe I was hoping for a local hero who would start some sort of potbush rebellion, refusing to play gofer for the feds or filing suit against them for illegal search. Maybe I was asking for some sort of miracle. The prime suspect had, reportedly, been dealing rather blatantly, and the chopper had plainly picked him out as a destination.

It seemed a bit extravagant, considering that they might have used whatever information they had to get a warrant and then just sent a surface vehicle, which arrived soon enough as it was. In the plural, to be sure.

But then the chopper zoomed around for several minutes on nearby property, a quarter of a mile distant, where I was on the roof.

Then it headed two miles back towards Crestone and reportedly circled another property, then back to me for another dozen passes and then back to the prime suspect, who wasn’t charged with dealing but with cultivation of one to four plants, depending on which gossip you believe.

And one such gossiper assures me that a similar scenario took place a mile or so to the southeast during the previous summer. Are federal helicopters exempt from needing search warrants? Missions over large expanses of government acreage are one thing, arbitrary searches of backyards are another.

Choppers sometimes go down, and men with weapons sometimes go berserk, as we all have been reminded these last few years. So whose bright idea is this? Do we really need shock-and-awe tactics over the Baca Grande Grants subdivision to discourage a few pot plants?

When the majority in the county and 40% in the state voted to decriminalize smaller amounts of marijuana, are counter-insurgency tactics appropriate? Do the feds really want to remove the rooftop gardeners and put the money in the hands of the Colombians instead? Or are they just hoping that we’ll all turn into alkies who wind up clogging our mental health facilities at everyone’s expense?


Villa Grove