This has been a difficult winter for us on our farm, and we think it is a good time to try to explain why- our whole county is right in the pathway of the frac sand mining explosion here in Wisconsin, and just a few months ago we found out about exploratory drilling going on right next door for a possible frac sand mine. Well, we found out by doing the chores one morning and hearing the worst awful racket you can imagine, which was pretty unusual; in all the days that we have lived here the mornings have been quiet and peaceful. So we’ve been dealing with the potential of a frac sand mine right next door since Christmas (great Christmas gift, huh?), and we’ve been all over the map in terms of how we are trying to deal with this. There are so many issues with frac sand mining, and frack mining itself, that they are too numerous to go into right here at the moment, but suffice it to say that if a mine went in right next to our property, we would have to deal with hundreds of trucks pummeling our quiet country road mercilessly, day in and day out, , potential groundwater contamination, as well as incessant drilling noise, explosions that rock the landscape, and super fine silica dust that would present new and unexplored health hazards. Not the ideal picture for a small farmstead neighbor.
We sincerely hope our neighbor decides to pull the plug on this potential mine. Many people are swayed by the money, the mine companies are paying millions of dollars to buy up sites all around the county, and our surrounding townships are feeling the brunt force of mining might.
Our friend Lindsay Rebhan recently wrote about our situation for the MOSES (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service) “Organic Broadcaster” Newsletter. She does a good job of explaining our situation. Here is an excerpt with a link to the full article at the end.
Our nation finds itself in the midst of a Wild West land grab–a fracking boom and therefore a frac-sand mining boom. The process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) uses sand, water and chemicals to open fissures in the earth to extract oil or natural gas. Wisconsin’s geological history as an ocean provides the perfect crystalline silica sand used for the hydraulic fracturing process. In the last three years, Wisconsin sand mining has grown exponentially, quickly changing the landscape.
“We didn’t completely understand how this issue could affect us so quickly. We were building our farm business; moving, harvesting/planting, learning the community, we thought we didn’t have time to keep up with the frac mining issue around us,” young Wisconsin farmer Andrew French explains. In the list of things new farmers need to keep tabs on–add frac sand mining. Andrew and Khaiti French own Living the Dream Farm, (L.T.D. Farm, Inc.) in Clayton, Wis., located in Barron County.
Andrew and Khaiti are two impassioned young farmers and compassionate carnivores, stewarding 39 acres of land in western Wisconsin. Barron County, like much of Wisconsin, is known for rolling hills, bucolic trout streams and good farmland. “Our land is one of the most important elements of our farm, of course, if the mine operation starts up here–all the smog, noise, and silica dust will cause health issues for us and our animals.” The L.T.D. farmers raise pastured ducks, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and goats, and produce vegetables for a CSA operation.
“The frac sand issue came to our attention this summer. Our neighbors five miles away started to fight a mine next to their property. Then, a week before Christmas, boring started on the property next to ours. We got up to do chores early morning in December and heard a loud noise. It was a big drill like the ones used to drill wells. A mineral company was drilling test holes for mineral extraction. We are now well aware that we have frac sand in this area. This obvious threat to our land and neighborhood concerned all of our neighbors and we almost immediately began to meet and talk about what we could do. We are now just understanding what actually happens in the frac sand mining process.”
Read the rest here:
When an industrial mine seems like it might become reality right next to your farm, you don’t know what to do and it is impossible to get straight answers from anybody. We’ve learned a lot about our local government and the attitudes of different factions of the population in this rural area. It’s been discouraging at times. But we also found out about all the AMAZING people out here as well, those who treasure this region for a variety of reasons; those who love its peaceful agricultural vibe, those who have moved here to retire and relax for the last years of their lives, and others who have moved to this land to breathe the fresh air, and hike, hunt, and fish in the healthy wildlands. None of these folks want to see it become an industrial wasteland. For the last few months we have worked as a unified group, and even though it seems that we didn’t get our voices heard by our town board members, we bonded as a group of caring neighbors. Knowing your like-minded neighbors is so important in the country.
Take heart, we will always farm, and we love our jobs. But we would like to continue our journey on this lovely piece of heaven we call home.