samedi, octobre 27, 2007

The last herd in Wallace

This is a story about "lasts"-and it's about township politics.

When we first moved out here, I noticed a large animal veterinarian who has an office about a mile or so up the road from us. He may be, aside from the New Bolton Center, one of the last large animal doctors in Chester County. Jim travels around from farm to farm, but most of his work is done with large farms-farms that breed calves or are home to dairy cattle.

Knowing that I wanted to do a story on the anachronism of a Chester County large animal vet, and knowing he would be in the neighborhood, Jim gave me a call.

The rain was coming down much of the morning, alternating between a drizzle and downpour. I got lost on the road to the Heim farmstead.

When I finally found the barn, Heim and his son were helping the cows go through a cattle shute so that Jim could do a rectal exam to see how many months pregnant they were. Separated from their young calves, the cows bawled sadly. Little did they know it would be forever. When the calves are six months ago, they are sent off to a feed lot. Then they are either bred as dairy cattle or slaughtered. Even the mothers have a maximum life span of 15 years. They all end up as your dinner.

As I looked into the liquid black eyes of the momma cows, I was glad I don't eat meat.

Moving out of the shute after they are palpated, the cows go into another pasture. Buster, the cattle dog, makes sure they go fast. Jay Heim, who has farmed here for 20 years, is selling the cattle on November 17 of this year. He's working on a deal to sell his acreage to the developer who owns hundreds of acres just south of him. The Heim farm and the Greenfield land are Wallace's last big tracts of undeveloped pasture and woods.

The developer, Albert Greenfield Jr, has plans to build lots of houses for wealthy folks, and a golf course and resort.

Meanwhile, Heim says he and his wife will probably move out further into the country-away from increasingly congested Wallace. With all of the new zoning laws, he says, it's almost impossible for farmers to hang on to their land.

And so soon, Wallace Township shall only have one working farm left-Bethany Farm down the road from me in the other direction. When I saw Mr. Messner, who farms organically, I suggested he might want to start coming to township planning committee meetings. Maybe he can get himself listed as an endangered species.

1 commentaire:

Sue a dit…

I want to cry when I read things like this. It's one of the good things about moving away from PA -- the relief not having to see those large developer signs on the sides of the roads, with those big white arrows pointing you to the direction of the disappearing farm du jour. One nice thing about living in northern NJ is that those signs don't really exist (there's no room!).

Interestingly, on our drive to and from Virginia over the weekend, we enjoyed visiting the familiar sites from our seminary days, yet we both commented on the many signs covering areas that we had remembered as being beautiful farmland. Sadly, a huge development actually enveloped the little church where we had our meeting. There was something so ... wrong! .. about that, seeing the church's entrance right next to someone's driveway.

I feel for that farmer -- I really do. I feel very, very sad for the future of that county, and others just like it.