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Photo by Erin Ehnle Brown/ Grand Vale Creative (Used with permission)

We need to welcome farmers and ranchers here

I'm an advocate for rural communities and agriculture — and my passion is fueled by the kind and supportive people who live and work in those towns and industry. Occasionally, though, I meet or hear of an individual or group who are downright cruel.

That's the case for some area residents of Devils Lake, N.D., and the Spirit Lake reservation. They haven't been kind to a young farmer and are trying squelch and end his farm expansion. They don't support our state and region's largest economic driver, agriculture. Gone is North Dakota nice.

Agweek reporter Mikkel Pates has been covering the North Dakota Department of Health hearings on a proposed 2,499-sow (pig) farm 11 miles from the town of Devils Lake and about a mile from the actual 95,000-acre lake.

A comment made by a critic of the pig farm to the young farmer and his proposed farm, Taylor Aasmundstad, stopped me and made me think about the long-term implications: "Mr. Aamundstad, it is not wanted here!"

What a cruel remark to say to a young man in our state. I don't care who you are or what your opinion is — we cannot drive away farmers and businesses from our communities and state. Other communities will welcome them with open arms and embrace their entrepreneurial passion.

This unfortunate situation is a classic case of not in my backyard (NIMBY). Opponents say pigs are fine — as long as they're not in their backyard. Don't be a NIMBY person. If the health department determines a 2,499-sow farm will not harm a 95,000-acre lake, I'm going to trust the system. The U.S. food and agriculture industry is the most regulated in the world. I don't fear the system that provides our food and fiber.

Local food and farmers might "look" different than you've seen in a painting, movie or past memory. Society likes to romanticize the American farmer. Pig farming is far from idyllic, but modern operations are state of the art and as regulated and safe as any other industry. Pig farming can grow our local economies by adding jobs and tax base our communities so desperately need to ensure their future. Animal agriculture can add value to grain farms struggling to survive right now.

People can be ruthless when they don't agree with your way of life, your lifestyle choices or even the way you want to farm. Don't let them win.

Stand firm in who you are and your choices to grow your business and your way of life. Mr. Aasmundstad, and anyone else like him, you are welcome here. You and your pig farm are wanted here. Not just in my state of North Dakota, but in the U.S. We want a next generation of farmers just like you. You are our future. Despite low commodity prices and tariffs limiting our export markets right now, we must look ahead and support those who push forward to find a different way.

You might not agree. You don't have to. But shunning a young entrepreneur and saying he's not wanted is unacceptable. We can all do better. Rural, farm and city folks need to rally around entrepreneurs. Support those who grow your food. If a young farmer wants to expand his operation in such a way that meets health standards and regulations, offer your support and then stand back and watch them grow.

Mr. Aamundstad, you and your farm are welcome here.