I’ve always been intrigued by the way farmers regard their personal property. Growing up, I remember being taught about the importance of keeping your hands (and feet) off things that didn’t belong to you.

At five or six, I remember riding in the passenger seat of my dad’s pickup truck and spotting unfamiliar vehicles parked in our farm lanes.

My dad would park the truck and tell me to stay inside, while he approached the unfamiliar vehicle to see whose it was, and whether the owner could be called from the woods. If the person was trespassing, they were in for some trouble.

There were times when I got a little nervous waiting in that truck. The thought always crossed my mind whether the person would be violent, or how the confrontation might go. And so it was always a relief to see my dad come back to the truck, in one piece and under his own power.

I understood why the person needed confronted, at least mostly. I mean, you can’t let people come onto your land without asking and act like they own the place. And there are more than a few people out there who act just that way.

“Private property” is called so for a reason. But over the years, I’ve also grown a bit ill over this idea of “mine, not yours,” stay away mentality.

Being reasonable

To my dad’s credit, he was fairly lenient with people who mistook our farm for being part of the neighbor’s farm, where the person had legitimate permission. That’s a fairly honest mistake, especially in wooded areas where the property line is difficult for even us to find.

Although my dad sometimes got upset, there were also many times when he simply educated the person about needing to get permission first, even though people really should know better.

The thing that bothers me is when I see the Wild West approach to land. The type of thing where a property owner jumps someone with the force of a grizzly bear and God, if you can picture that.

If you suspect someone is trespassing on your property, it’s OK to approach them in a civilized manner. You might find out they’re there for a different reason than you expect, and you might save yourself some breath.

As a hunter, I am very reliant on permission to enter private property, and every property owner is always different. Some give me permission for all season, some just for select days, some want to be called each day and others do not. It can get kind of confusing, even for the well-intentioned.

There’s a real challenge in this state to get permission to hunt, and I think we saw part of the result of that this week with the results of the HuntOhioFarms.com website, “due to lower than anticipated participation from Ohio’s farming community.”

The program was meant to link farms and hunters, to help control the deer population and damage to crops. Thousands of hunters responded; only a handful of farms.

There are a lot of good reasons why farmers are reluctant to allow hunters — they’ve had a bad experience in the past, they don’t know the hunters in question, or the land owner may hold personal beliefs contrary to hunting.

But there’s also potential for a lot of good. In addition to managing the deer herd, legal hunters help police against illegal hunters, and have been known to remove fallen tree branches from fields and keep an eye out for damaged fences, etc.

Other views

The Native Americans, as I was taught, did not understand the concept of owning land. To say a piece of land belongs to me, and here are the lines, would be the same to us as trying to stake out a section of the air and saying it is ours, not yours.

Maybe that’s a bit extreme for today’s world, but there are times when we need to look at the bigger picture and how much “ours” the land really is.

My family’s farm, for example, belonged to somebody else before it became the Kick Farm, and will be someone else’s after we’re all gone. We didn’t bring the land with us, and we’re not taking it anywhere when we die.

It’s kind of simple, but I like how folk singer Woody Guthrie said it: This land is my land, this land is your land, and most importantly, this land was made for you and me.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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