The Bigotry of Low Expectations

Norman Rockwell Farmer Figuring Chart in handI was talking with some young professionals last month who expressed concerns about a friend taking a job practicing medicine in Yakima. One concern was that the dating pool of eligible bachelors for her was too shallow. After all, “what was there to choose from but farmers?”

And there you have it. The prevailing belief — those who work in agriculture are still stuck in a Grant Wood painting, pitchfork in hand, struggling to keep up in  this high-tech modern world — is alive and well in the next generation. After all, “how can we who are still pushing the plow behind a horse in the field comprehend modern concepts like GMO’s, or instream water flows, or global weather patterns?”

The popular phrase that describes this way of thinking is: The bigotry of low expectations. It feels good on the “superior” side of this belief system, it is frustrating when you are on the “inferior” side of this type of bigotry.

We in Whatcom County are asked in the coming Conservation District (CD) Election to decide if this  “bigotry of low expectations” is alive and well in our community? Can we trust a farmer, or do we choose a city planner?

A little history here. Conservation Districts were formed to help land owners with soil conservation projects after the terrible windstorms of the 1930’s. The CD’s were set up in rural communities, and managed by farmers and ranchers, who were all dependent on agricultural for their livings. The farmers and ranchers were successful and today when the great winds roll across our plains, the topsoil does not roil into gigantic clouds and blow-off to the Atlantic Ocean from our farm lands. The CD’s have now morphed into a greater mission of education and public awareness in environmental stewardship. Our Conservation District is still working in a farming community because we still have a thriving farm community here. Our CD plays a vital role in partnering with our agricultural landowners in their conservation efforts, primarily assisting farmers to develop detailed farm plans that incorporate best farming practices and education.

Grant-Wood-Farmer-with-Pitchfork_thumb.jpgThere are two people running for a spot on the CD board.Larry Helm and Joy Monjure are both asking for the vote of the people in the Whatcom County Conservation District. Shall you vote for Joy Monjure, who comes from a background in Bellingham Public Works communications? Joy’s awareness of sustainable farming issues began with a move to Everson in 1989 where she has managed a farm-market since her retirement. Or will you cast your vote for Larry Helm, who has spent his entire life working within the environment at ground level? Larry Helm’s connection to farming began on a small dairy farm in his boyhood.  Larry’s  professional career was that of Parks Superintendent in California for 30 years. Larry’s second career has been here in Whatcom County raising Scottish Highlanders, bees and fruit trees.

The question is, “who is best qualified to sit on this Board?” Will we choose the person who has spent his entire life working to safeguard and conserve our environment for us? Or, will we go for the person who has worked most of her life inside a bureaucratic city governmental system and in her retiring years has cultivated an interest in farming? The problem is that those in the City of Bellingham may believe that farmers still farm like they did in those “Dirty 30’s,” and need the benevolent guidance of their city counterparts.

Will you cast your vote from your bias of “low expectations bigotry” or will you cast your ballot for the a man who is smart enough to figure out how to conserve the topsoil of an entire nation, a farmer.

`Lorraine Newman



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