Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rancher meets ag's critics in the middle

On Jeff Fowle's Facebook page, a list of his favorite songs includes Diamond Rio's “Meet In the Middle.” That's fitting.

Fowle, 41, lives in the eye of a political storm – in more ways than one. An Etna, Calif., rancher and hay producer, he is on the front lines in the battle against misconceptions about animal agriculture, while also being in the thick of Siskiyou County's water conflicts.

A few years ago, the fourth-generation rancher was among the pioneers who started a veritable social media revolution within the farming community. Staying positive is the focus of Fowle's latest endeavor – a movement called Just Farmers, which encourages people to get back to the old virtue of speaking respectfully to those with differing views. It's a virtue he believes has been missing in Siskiyou, where landowners have been up in arms over state regulation of their water use.

“It's a challenge for me when I see local people I have great respect for struggle with the simple idea of having a conversation,” he told me in an interview today after giving the keynote addresss at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. “There's a lot of passion in agriculture. If the passion could be tempered and we could stop talking at people … I know good things can come.”

You can read my entire story at CapitalPress.com here.

Fowle's speech -- and my interview of him afterward -- were among many things that happened today at the logging conference. About 800 elementary school students -- mostly fourth-graders -- toured the grounds this morning as we were inside having breakfast. I was able to slip out and snap this photo of Shasta College heavy equipment instructor John Livingston explaining to a group of students how an excavator works. Also, I sat in on an interesting panel discussion on the havoc that marijuana plantings are having in the woods.

I'll have stories on these issues up online in the coming days.

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