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Seattleites took a 10-hour road trip to cross a political divide. Here’s what happened

Sherman County, Oregon, sits just south of the Washington border, east of the Cascades. Fewer than 2,000 people live in its 831 square miles. Stand on one of the hills near Moro, the county seat, and you’ll see wheat fields all around — and maybe some tall wind turbines.

Sherman County has very little in common with Seattle and King County. And yet, we’re connected: It’s the nearest county to ours that voted exactly opposite us in the presidential election. While 74 percent of King County voters went for Clinton, 74 percent of Sherman County voters went for Trump.

So on Saturday, about 20 of us King County residents took a 10-hour road trip to pay the people of Sherman County a visit.

(Photo by Anika Anand)

We called the trip “Melting Mountains: An Urban-Rural Gathering.” Sandy Macnab, a just-retired Sherman and Wasco County agricultural agent who planned the event with us, came up with the name. It refers to the snowmelt that runs down the mountains dividing the eastern and western parts of our states, nourishing the land below.

We like the metaphor. And though we know we can’t melt the political and cultural “mountains” that divide our two counties in an afternoon — red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban — we figured we might help people take a first step.

We pulled up to Oregon State University’s Sherman County Extension Office a little after 11 a.m. About four hours, one meal, and many conversations later, we said goodbye to the 16 Sherman County residents we’d met to start the long drive back home.

The people who took part in the discussions told each other whom they’d voted for, revealed their stance on some big issues, talked about the hopes and concerns they had about their country over the next few years, and practiced listening to each other for minutes at a time (with instructions to not interrupt one another).

Here’s how they thought it went.

‘WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE SAME THING’

(Photo by Anika Anand)

 

“I wasn’t sure what to expect.” said Jennifer Zimmerlee, who’s from Sherman County. “I can’t lie — there was a little trepidation.”

In one exercise, people from Sherman and King Counties paired off for a series of one-on-one conversations. In each of those, one person asked the other about his or her political hopes, concerns, and values and listened to the response. Then, they switched.

“I was afraid it’d be a lot more Clinton/Trump stuff,” said Jennifer, who voted for third-party candidate Gary Johnson. “Instead what we got was some really nice guided discussions on the fact that even though how we approach problems is very different, in the end we truly are looking for the same thing.”

The group came to that shared purpose early in the event, when everyone took turns introducing themselves. People in both counties agreed our divides had turned ugly, that they wanted to learn from each other, that this could be a start. “There’s a lot I don’t know about my own country,” one person said.

There’s a lot that has to happen before people unfamiliar with someone else’s lifestyle can really understand it. Knowing that left Darren Padget, a fourth-generation Sherman County wheat farmer, a little disappointed.

“No one went out in the street and protested or had a baseball bat and did bad things,” said Darren, who serves as chair of the Oregon Wheat Commission. “That was the positive of the day — having a civil conversation.”

The negative, he said, is that he didn’t get an opportunity to connect that deeply with city dwellers about how he lives his life. When he introduced himself, he pointed to the sandwiches people were eating for lunch. “If you knew what it took to get that simple sandwich on your plate…” he’d said then, to murmurs of thoughtful agreement from residents of both Sherman and King counties in the room.

“I would have appreciated a better opportunity to explain to them what we do and why we do it,” he said.

Darren said his health care costs jumped 426 percent in the last few years and regulations like the “Waters of the United States” rule, which President Trump ordered the EPA to remove last month, are hurting his business.

“That’s why I support Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton,” Darren said. “I didn’t think either of them was a very good candidate, to be honest with you.”

‘IT WAS JUST DIFFICULT TO HEAR THAT’

(Photo by Anika Anand)

 

Jordan Goldwarg came from King County with his husband, Sam, and would have voted for Clinton if he could have. Jordan, who grew up in Canada, became a U.S. citizen just a few weeks ago.

At one point during the one-on-one discussions, Jordan heard the person he was paired with from Sherman County share a viewpoint on LGBTQ rights that made him uncomfortable.

The person made it clear, he said, that she had no problem with gay people. “But for me, as someone who is gay, the general tone of the conversations and the things she was saying that affect my life and the lives of a lot of people that I know — it was just difficult to hear that,” Jordan said.

Jordan wished he’d had more time to unpack the divisions that turned up. But he didn’t want to stop listening.

“I really value the opportunity to have conversations with people who seem very different from me, to be able to understand their experiences more and develop empathy with them,” said Jordan, who is the regional director for a nonprofit that brings together people of different faiths.

“It seems this is exactly the kind of experience I’d been wanting to have, and didn’t know how to find.”

NO MORE EASY ANSWERS

A silly group pic this time. (Photo by Cambria Roth)

 

Like many people around Seattle, Leah Greenbaum woke up shocked Nov. 9. For weeks she consumed online and social media, trying to make sense of the election results through news articles and the explanations they laid out.

“Going to Sherman County and being in person, I think, I was surprised by the complexity of the stories I heard,” she said. They made sense to her in a way that the online stories she’d read could not.

“To stand in front of someone and hear them speak with passion and feeling about what they believe, you sort of can’t help but expand your own sense of empathy and humanity,” Leah said.

Leah is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. When she heard people from Sherman County talk about how certain regulations and policies affected them, she asked herself how she could make sure the policies she works on are always informed by people’s actual experiences.

“I want to get out there and talk to primary sources from now on,” she said. “I love the media, my best friends are journalists… but I’m not going to look for easy answers anymore.”

Others came away with things they wanted to do next:

  • Jennifer said she planned to email every person who came from King County and shared their contact info to thank them for coming down.
  • Darren said he’s going to follow up with a couple he met from King County, and send them photos and material to continue a conversation they started on the Waters of the U.S. rule. “We [farmers] need to tell our story as much as we can,” he said.
  • Jordan said he wants to think about more ways to bridge urban and rural communities in his interfaith work.

And for us at The Evergrey? We’re going to look for ways to help keep these conversations going. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing a few more perspectives, in their own words, from people who took part in “Melting Mountains.”

And we want to find more ways to facilitate conversations among people who disagree.

“I know that when people pay attention to how they’re speaking and listening to one another and really make an attempt to understand, remarkable things can happen,” said Bob Stains, a conversation facilitator who advised us on this event.

On that, we agree.

THANK YOU

(Illustration by Ben Hastie, Cascade Public Media)

 

We’re beyond grateful to everyone who welcomed us in Sherman County, especially Sandy Macnab, our amazing planning partner and tour guide; Sherry Kaseberg, who publishes the Sherman County e-News and didn’t hesitate for a second when we first contacted her with the idea for a visit; and Cindy Brown, who helped with the event setup and cleanup. To everyone from around the county who hung out with us: it was great to get to know you. As for everyone from King County who gave their entire Saturday  (a total of 13 and a half hours) to meet a different community: we’re honored to have helped. And to the folks at Crosscut, who provided support that helped make this trip possible, thanks a ton for everything.

Here’s an illuminating piece on the event from Crosscut columnist Knute Berger.

Any feedback or questions on the event? You can always reach us at hello@theevergrey.com.

By Mónica Guzmán
Mónica is the cofounder and editor of The Evergrey. She's been a Seattle journalist for a decade and adores this city.

  • Jared Howe

    Any way to participate in another event like this? I’m very interested.

    • Stay tuned, or sign up to our newsletter to get updates. We’re thinking about what the right next step should be, and how else we can bring together people who disagree. Very open to ideas, so send them along at hello@theevergrey.com.

      • eat_swim_read

        Hope these same ppl can meet….quarterly? Maybe one time in Seattle, and then in the middle to reduce the hassle/expense?
        Maybe a pipe dream, and easy for me to say.
        Great idea – once or repeated. Love it and respect the effort expended to make it happen.
        Wow. Deeply impressed….

      • Jared Howe

        Will do. What newsletter are you talking about? I’m already subscribed to the evergrey daily newsletter. I’m thinking we could do that here in Seattle. Why travel 8 hours? It would make it a lot easier to stay in contact with each other for follow up meetings as well.

  • JHamer

    Kudos to TheEvergrey for organizing this event and for the promise to follow up and keep talking. This is exactly what this country needs for people on different sides — politically, culturally, and geographically — to understand each other better. The Crosscut piece is also well worth reading.

  • britt

    Bravo! Way to be a part of the solution and take a step to understand how to mend the mess we’re in. You’re on to something here, Evergrey!

  • An awesome and much-need experiment. Looking forward to reading more perspectives tomorrow.

  • Charlie Pluckhahn

    I live in Seattle but will be moving to 40 acres in rural Klickitat County (2,000 sq mi, 21,000 people) this summer. I grew up in the Midwest and have lived for 27 years in the Midwest, 16 years in the East, and 16 years in the West.

    If I include where we’re going, the largest metro area I’ve lived in has 13 million people; the smallest will be about 4,000 people. I have visited 26 foreign countries, and have driven roughly 350,000 highway miles through all 50 states.

    There are far more places in the United States where I’ve been than there are places where I haven’t been. I’ve lived one door away from an Interstate highway, and regularly visit the spot
    (Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Oregon) that’s farthest away from an Interstate than anywhere in the continental United States.

    I have voted for Democrats, Republicans, and independents. I have friends across the political spectrum: Trump voters, Clinton voters, Johnson and Stein voters, and non-voters. I’ve had lunch with a billionaire and have eaten Thanksgiving dinner on a park bench with a homeless guy. I have friends on 18,000 acres in Oregon’s least-populated county, and friends in high-rises in Boston.

    I have changed my mind on political issues because of my exposure to other people and their attitudes and the experiences that go with these friendships and acquaintances, and the re-thinking and additional study that all this inspired.

    I have gone from a firm proponent of gun control to a gun-owning opponent of gun control. I’ve gone from a believer in the hypothesis that human actvity is causing the climate to change to a non-believer in the idea. I’ve gone from a strong “environmentalist” to a skeptic of many environmentalist proposals.

    I’ve gone from a position of complete ignorance of the lives and concerns of this country’s cattle ranchers to an enthusiastic supporter of people who I now view as some of this country’s hardest working, least appreciated, and occasionally most unfairly maligned folks.

    I’m also somewhat critical of ranchers and farmers for not doing a lot more to reach out to the eaters in the big cities, who aren’t as hostile as they often appear but are simply ignorant of the realities. Hardly anyone lives on ranches ands farms anymore, and generational ties have loosened over time.

    It’s not necessarily fair, but I think it is up to ranchers and farmers to explain themselves to the rest of this country. Take those beef checkoff dollars and use ’em to reach out to your urban end users. Take down your no-trespassing signs from time to time, and open your farms and ranches to visitors. Set up a B&B if you can do it. Personal contact is highly underrated, in my opinion.

    A different version of the same idea goes for city people. But more so. Because our entire culture is urban focused, and because many essential services are located in cities, rural dwellers know a lot more about cities than the other way around.

    If you live in a big, rich city like Seattle, get in your vehicle and drive east to find the West. Oregon’s least populated county — Wheeler — is exactly 300 miles from my driveway. It’s a 6-hour drive, including a stop or two. Get on out there. If nothing else, the scenery will blow your mind, and change your frame of reference.

    It’s not the political conversations, directly, that matter to me. What counts a lot more is the casual back and forth, which reveals what people care about and how they live their lives. Pay attention to the little things. Go to a few rodeos. Have dinner at the local cafe. Ride a horse at least once. Talk to folks about the little stuff.

    “Travel” is all too often a quick trip within our comfort zone. Get out of your comfort zone. Unstructure yourself. Get out, look around, and think about real lives when you go. How does someone running 850 head on 18,000 acres live?

    Oh, and how do they deal with it when the Obamacare insurance program tears apart long-standing doctor relationships that are very difficult and maybe impossible to replace — in return for an immediate 25% price increase? Yep, my conversations in 2013 with rancher friends sure changed my mind about that one, let me tell you.

    You’re nonchalant about drugs, the trading and use of which you regard as “non-violent?” When your rural acquaintance tells you about what meth and heroin are doing to communities that were struggling to begin with, listen to what you are hearing. And then ask yourself what constitutes “non violent.”

    These are not stupid people. Quite the contrary. Farming is a highly complex activity that requires more brainpower than most city occupations. They are likely more conservative than you are, but they happen to feed you. You’ve heard that ranchers pay outrageously cheap grazing fees? Well, you have not been told that those “subsidies” vanish immediately at the cattle auctions, and that if the fees go up, the result will be a lot more imported food from countries with lower or no safety standards. And higher prices in the city.

    You also haven’t been told that ranchers contribute tons of uncompensated labor and improvements on that “ridiculously cheap” government land. Yes, it’s in their interest to do it, but the point is that grazing fees don’t begin to capture the full cost of grazing to the hard working people who run cattle in the Great Out There.

    Here are two of the biggest things I’ve learned from my travels.

    1. The rest of the world is fascinating and beautiful, but I’ll take the United States in a heartbeat. Within the U.S., I’ll take the West. Within the West, get me east of the Cascades and west of the Rockies, to wide open spaces made famous my no one. In America the Beautiful, there is no sky like a Western sky.

    2. Wherever you go in America, from Manhattan to Jordan Valley, Oregon, you will find incredibly interesting people who work hard, try hard to do the right thing, and have interesting lives — if you will stop, look, listen, and then think about what you see and hear. We really are in it together.

    THE END (finally!)

    • Thanks for this, Charlie. I love what you said here: “It’s not the political conversations, directly, that matter to me. What counts a lot more is the casual back and forth, which reveals what people care about and how they live their lives.” So much is about what people experience, and what’s funny about today’s society is that while we’re “talking” to each other more, via so much online communication, we’re not necessarily relating our experiences in a way that people can really feel and absorb.

    • Tyro

      You sound nice but awfully gullible and seem to have a have a strong desperation to be liked.

      • Charlie Pluckhahn

        Thanks for your thoughtul and detailed reply.

    • slack78

      (Full disclosure, I was in the Navy for 5 years, own several firearms, hunt (not in a long while) and I live in the city and love it, grew up on a farm and around loggers, I wanted to be a faller when I grew up)

      There has ALWAYS been an urban/rural divide. But it’s always the expectation that the “City folk” are supposed to “learn” from the simple “salt of the earth” farmers. I find that hilarious because it’s something that Mao would say.

      From what I’m seeing now, I realize that we are going through a kind of Cultural Revolution made in America. How long before groups of Red MAGA hats are chanting, “In agriculture, learn from Iowa!”, or “Let a 100 flowers bloom!”, “Every man an expert” (too on the nose) and those proud professors/landlords should proletarianize themselves by working the fields with a healthy round of self-criticism.

      I think that rural people have to come to terms with the fact that the real drivers of economic wealth in this new age comes from those “useless eaters” and “greedy bread gobblers” who live in the cities and to stop with the Rodney Dangerfield act.

      Just look at the way that tax dollars flow to rural areas from city areas. Interstate and intrastate.

      Hey if you want to live a rural life and live on a farm, great! I can certainly see the attraction to it, but realize that it’s a lifestyle choice and that you have to pay a penalty for it and don’t expect respect. Why do people always demand obeisance for existing?

      As for the other stuff, you don’t believe in Climate change? These things are always the same, smoking, smog in LA, it always in stages, denial, scapegoat, acceptance.

      With smoking, the insurance companies knew decades before the tobacco companies admitted anything. Same with what is happening with Climate change. Look to see what insurance companies are doing.

      Insurance companies won’t insure ski resorts under a certain elevation. Are upping premiums on coastal properties if they insure them at all. There’s a business opportunity for you if you don’t think it’s happening.

      • Charlie Pluckhahn

        Of course I believe in climate change. The climate has always been changing.

        • slack78

          Whatever bud, I’m moving north. Life is short, I suggest you plan accordingly.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Hmm. The place where we’re moving just had a record cold ‘n snowy winter. I know, I know. Weather, not climate, except of course when the believers of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis choose to ignore the distinction, in which case it’s superior intelligence on display.

            We’ll take our chances in Klickitat County.

          • Thanks for keeping it civil, everyone.

        • Pat Shay

          As a life-long resident of California, I GUARANTEE you the DROUGHT is neither OVER, nor a JOKE!

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            California’s drought is most definitely over. It will take some more time to refill the groundwater, of course. The state’s water issue is not a climate issue, but rather an issue of California’s state government not having kept pace with the state’s population growth when it comes to building reseservoirs, along with not having adequately maintained the state’s existing water infrastructure.

            I have certainly never argued that the most recent drought was “a joke.” It was a severe drought, one of several in the last hundred years. Your state has a cyclical drench-drought climate. However, it’s true that the most recent drought was no worse than the droughts of 1977 and 1924, and wasn’t as bad as several droughts of the 1800s. I spent the last few years reading the stories, and shaking my head at the complete lack of any historical perspective.

            In the past few years, we saw the global warming lobby vastly exaggerate the nature, cause, and extent of the California drought. I strongly believe this was done entirely for political purposes, and had no scientific validity.

            p.s. Even the notoriously laggard “U.S. Drought Monitor” shows the CA drought over with. And the far more reliable Palmer Index has California drenched. One thing CA needs to do is implement more modern water ideas, one of which includes faster recharging of ground water. I think your state ought to cancel the bullet train, and spend the money on things that matter a whole lot more.

            http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?west

            http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/regional_monitoring/rpd07drs.gif

            http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/cdus/palmer_drought/wpdwest.txt

      • Charlie Pluckhahn

        The cities have always been magnets for talent. Nothing new about that. And if there’s nothing for city dwellers to learn from county dwellers, then I guess the whole experiment whose initial result we’re talking about was pointless. Which, by the way, it might have been. I’m not against it, but I’m a skeptic.

        As for global warming and insurance, I think I’ll listen to Warren Buffett about that, and suggest that you do the same. He’s in the business, and just gave an interview that directly refutes your claim.

        http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/27/warren-buffett-global-warming-not-impacting-berkshires-insurance-biz.html

        • Pat Shay

          I realize that Buffet is clear that he doesn’t see human actions as affecting climate change….at least yet. However, he is looking at his business in the US as not changing and that is only part of the story. As climate change impacts folks (and their environment) in other parts of the world, that will have a ripple effect that will eventually reach us.

          Nor, in fact, is climate change, per se, the only issue. Pollution of all types have a devastating effect on the planet and on human enterprise on it. The longer companies are allowed to get away with dumping toxic substances into public waters, the less those waters will produce for human consumption. (Sadly, this also means the manure from cattle as much as anything else.)

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            We have been seeing apocalyptic climate projections for a long time. When I was a teenager, they were projecting a new ice age. Then it flipped to global warming. Old predictions that didn’t come true were forgotten, and new predictions were made that didn’t come true.

            I was a lukewarm believer in the AGW hypothesis until a few years ago, when I noticed that the proponents were ignoring their own rule about not conflating current weather with climate change. There has also been, to put it mildly, a lot of exaggeration, an example being the recent hysteria over the California drought. These things prompted me to really dive into the issue, and when I did so, I changed my mind.

            As for pollution, yes, there are types of pollution that are definitely problematical. I have always been concerned about that set of issues, and still am. I’ve been to China twice, and the level of pollution there really has to be experienced to be believed. So yes, pollution matters. A lot.

            The problem is when you have people who conflate the AGW hypothsis, which hinges on human emissions of carbon dioxide — which I am not convinced is a pollutant — with actual pollution.

            I worry that when it becomes clear to everyone, including the liberal Eastern media, that AGW is a failed hypothesis, the larger influence of environmentalists will have been so corrupted and diluted that actual pollution won’t get confronted.

            Something similar is at work with the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule, which is a drastic overreach that, over time, might wind up imperiling even legitimate and necessary protections of rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

            We very much need to get back to authentic science, and not politics dressed up in scientific jargon, which is what AGW and “Waters of the United States” are.

  • MJDerr

    Keep this conversation developing! Let’s assume most of us “don’t know what we don’t know”!

  • Congratulations on a terrific experiment! I believe you’re on the tip of a wave of #citizendiplomacy, in which people are stepping in to get to know more about the others with whom they share this country.

    Do read the Crosscut piece as well.

  • Forrest

    I’m sure everyone was well-intentioned and very nice, but don’t discount the value of the facilitation! Ground rules (& sticking to them) go a long way to make these work, even among discussions with geographic similarity.

    • Sandy, Anika, and I spent a long time thinking about the structured conversations and exercises during the event. No easy lift, this one. But based on what we’ve heard from Sherman County and King County, feels very worth it.

  • Brian

    I love this so much. Good on you for organizing, kudos to our Oregon brethren for participating, and thanks for sharing the debrief.

  • Dick Brody

    This is all well and very good. It’s best when there’s no polarity in discussions, when participants use their ears and mouths in the proper proportion. I’d like to see how this microcosm deals with a discussion not so much of the topics but rather the style/manner in which messages are being delivered. It appears that this should be a model for similar get-togethers. Unfortunately the hotheads covet and command the attention of the media, much to the detriment of the every-day folks who mostly want the same thing but choose a more peaceful and rational means of achieving it.

    • MMXVII

      “Unfortunately the hotheads covet and command the attention of the media, much to the detriment of the every-day folks who mostly want the same thing but choose a more peaceful and rational means of achieving it.” Amen!

  • MMXVII

    This is the best thing I’ve read online since…well, since last November. I’m a little less worried that the USA won’t turn into another central-African sectarian nation.

    I live in bluer-than-blue Los Angeles County, and I admit to being one of those reviled social justice snowflakes. What I would like to do, however, is replicate the Melting Mountains project with some of the residents in the solid-red northeastern counties of the state. If there are any folks here in this thread who live in those areas of CA, please reply. Maybe we can begin setting something up.

    • Love that you want to try this where you are! Let me know if anything develops 🙂

      • MMXVII

        Expect an email from me in the next couple days. 🙂

  • slack78

    I grew up with/around farmers so I say this with some sadness but it’s some hard truth telling that needs to be said.

    Farmers the the most sanctimonious, aggrieved people on the face of the earth.

    They think it’s their right to work a farm regardless of wether it makes money or not and when it doesn’t they will blame anyone except themselves. Bankers, Government, some weak regulation, spotted owls, whatever.

    Too many farms in NA were on marginal land due to high grain prices through the world wars. Now it makes little sense to farm but these people still think it’s their right to farm and make a fortune.

    They are all for the free market until it does what it’s supposed to do and kicks them in the ass.

    It’s called supply and demand. Don’t farm, find something else to do that pays more. Then when people need your product go back to farming and stop complaining.

    I think it’s the whininess that bothers me the most.

    • MMXVII

      What about sustenance farming? Couldn’t there still be a place for that in this day and age, if for no other reason than to put your own food on the table and save money?

      • slack78

        Sure, if that’s what you want but it isn’t what these guys are doing. I thought they were industrial >200 acre farms.

        • MMXVII

          Yes, your assumption is correct, Slack. I wasn’t disagreeing with you – just offering an alternate solution to any farmers out there reading this.

          • Please keep it civil. We moderate our comment threads and will delete any comments that make direct attacks on other commenters.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            We’re all a little crazy up here. This must be the eleventy-millionth consecutive rainy day. Even for Seattle, this is getting scary! 🙂

        • Charlie Pluckhahn

          You need to adjust your thinking. The average Sherman County farm was 2,762 acres in 2012, up 12% from 2007. The minimum efficient scale continues to rise rapidly. Watch me be wrong, but with wheat prices softening and the dollar rising, my guess is that the farm sizes will grow even faster.

          • slack78

            I don’t know specifically about that area but I will say that I do know of people/families who owned one section and would farm a couple more but it wasn’t clear to me what they were. They were more like half family, half corporation, half machine and seemed to have a good handle on the major economic drivers of their business.

            I doubt that those people would be in on something like that which would be about airing grievances, they would have spreadsheets to go over and future contracts to trade.

            200 acres is more of an arbitrary break point where the underlying asset (land, if it’s arable) starts to become something a little more than a family farm and starts becoming something a little more industrial where you start having to worry about fuel/personel/fertilizer costs rather than just “eyeballing” things.

            I grew up in around the late 70s and 80’s and that was just when economic reality was starting to set in and the farmers that I knew were pissed off that they couldn’t spend their winters in Mexico or some tropical paradise.

            People just want things to stay the same, I don’t blame them but things change.

            Thats when it dawned on my family that things weren’t going to get better so either get big or get out. I joined the Navy and learned to program.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Even computer programmers have to eat.

          • slack78

            But I don’t buy wheat from just farmers in NA anymore. Those times are gone. Just like I don’t buy steel from Pennsylvania or oil from Texas. Commodities don’t know national boundaries.

            I say to farmers, go on strike. Supply and demand, Welcome to the free market comrade.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Actually, you don’t buy wheat at all. You buy products that use it.

          • slack78

            Ya got me.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            And my guess — but that’s all — is that if you live in thee U.S., the food companies are buying American wheat, except for certain specialty products, an example being pasta made with Italian semolina.

          • slack78

            Yes, NA wheat is dominant (Can’t remember exactly but I remember that Ukraine is 6th) , that’s why, I say use the market.

            Charge appropriately, fight if you think things are wrong but please stop lecturing me about what an ungrateful sh!t I am because I’m not making a shrine to farmers and praying 5 times a day to them.

            I go by NZ example with dairy. They got rid of subsidies overnight (literally) and now they are (I believe), largest supplier of milk products.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Lecturing you about being ungrateful? What?!

          • slack78

            Ya got me, but you missed the point.

          • slack78

            One more thing. Sometimes I fantasize about running a vineyard or having a herd of buffalo but I realize that its only vaguely about money and more about lifestyle.

            And I’d be sure to have enough money to last 5 bad years in a row.

    • Charlie Pluckhahn

      A right to farm, well, maybe, or at least to give it a try if you have the land and enough money and equipment, etc. But a right to “make a fortune?” I’ve never heard anyone express such an entitlement. When and where were you let in on that secret?

      • slack78

        No one ever says, “I should be rich”. They do say that they should be making a lot more than they do because of the work they do (trust me I know, how hard they work) they just don’t grok that it’s a low margin job. And when things are low margin, you should be prepared and realize its a labor of love not a job.

        I think everyone would be better off if they taught basic economic principles in school like cashflow and margin.

        Hell ya people should give things a try but I think they should go into it better prepared mentally than they are.

    • Tyro

      That’s Ian 100% true, but it is also human nature and something we need to work with. There’s a core of people who will never leave their communities. It’s why the government does things like guarantee mail service everywhere in the USA.

      We can’t economically abandon towns and hope that that they will figure out how to fix themselves or leave. We need to continue to give them a reason to exist, even if it means propping them up to satisfy their self image.

      We don’t necessarily need all their agriculture NOW, but they are worth maintaining because their land and institutional knowledge/expertise might be very necessary in the future.

      • slack78

        Fair enough but if every day your postman threw your mail at you and yelled at you that you didn’t appreciate him because you didn’t show what they determine appropriate respect, I think you would get a little tired of the prima donna act.

        • Charlie Pluckhahn

          I wouldn’t want the mailman to yell at me, but if there were enough mailmen to vote the opposite way I do, then I might find a reason to wonder why. And, because of the kind of guy I am, I might ask him about a) sore feet, and b) hostile dogs, on the grounds that he probably knows more about them than I do.

          Oh, and I’m grateful for mail service. It’s really cheap in this country compared to just about everywhere else.

      • Al Lamp

        “We need to continue to give them a reason to exist, even if it means propping them up to satisfy their self image.”

        Frankly, I’m having trouble with that concept Tyro. If I love making widgets, but cannot sell enough of them to make a living, it would not occur to me that society should support my widget making. And I don’t think farmers feel that way either.

  • Vickie Ramirez Nesbitt

    This was an amazing project! It would be nice to have Seattle people go out again to maybe spend 2-3 days instead of a few hours? And then have some of the Sherman County people come out and spend a few days…and maybe even in homes vs hotels so they each can experience daily life! A student exchange program, if you will, because we all need to be students now!

    • “We all need to be students now.” So true. Lots of things people thought they knew, but now realize they need to go back to the primary source materials (each other) and study.

  • Great event to organize and do! Is the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation http://ncdd.org/ in the loop on this initiative? I was impressed with their work when it was on display at a Seattle conference a few years ago.

  • Hi There….we would love to invite you on our bus tour through the heartland. We have a non profit listening project with this exact goal. Come and share….and thank you…you buoyed so many with this work. My heart is melting. http://www.sidewalk-talk.org

  • RON_KING

    While it is important to understand the farming perspective, it is equally important to understand and balance the conversation with the reasons for the implementation of the Waters of the US rule in the first place. Just like not liking the impact taxation has on my economics, the reason for the policy is more important than my personal concerns.

    • Charlie Pluckhahn

      I think that rule was a classic overreach by disconnected bureaucrats who were steered by hard-core environmentalist ideologues who have no appreciation or regard for farmers or ranchers.

      • RON_KING

        That MAY be the case, but it needs to be a part of the conversation and not just a soundbite criticism in support of a stance that may be as out of touch with the needs of the ENTIRE population. WERE there legitimate concerns behind the rule and if altered to address the concerns of farmers would it still protect the water sources as needed by other citizens?

        • Charlie Pluckhahn

          Sorry, but that sounds like someone from the city who is willing to close his eyes and write a blank check to the federal government, without ever looking at the details. I see the same mentality among liberals with respect to other issues: global warming, gun control, Obamacare.

          Anyone who opposes these things is given a rather pious lecture — wait, how about an overbearing and threatening diatribe — about the needs of “other citizens” by people with no knowledge of the details or interest in learning them. Rural people are told to simply trust the federal government. Uh-uh. Forget it. Prove the case, in detail.

          The “entire population” doesn’t need the federal government telling someone that the EPA has regulatory authority over a seasonal trickle of snowmelt that runs across his land in the spring. That, my concerned city friend, is part of the “Waters of the United States” rule. And much more. Do you want to put American farmers and ranchers out of business and rely on imported food?

          I think you should be the one to specifically justify these breathtaking power grabs, and not just with happy generalities about how everything belongs to everyone.

          p.s. Before telling rural people what to do with their land, maybe the City of Seattle should figure out how to a) pave its streets to an acceptable standard, and b) operate a sewage treatment plant. The “citizens” of this city spend their days sleepwalking through these things, interspersed by voting for every new property tax like a laboratory rat punching the bar for a pellet of food.

          Demand at least minimal accountability at home before generously instructing people 300 miles away on the details of their lives.

          • realityczar

            Available evidence suggests that, if nothing else, you know something about pious lectures.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Thanks for the thoughtful insight, and the effort expended.

          • Thanks for keeping it civil, everyone.

          • Charlie Pluckhahn

            Fair enough. This is a good time for us to be clearing out of Seattle before I spend every day complaining about it. 🙂

  • Christine Watson Furland

    You guys rock!

  • Great idea to bridge the widening gap between rural and urban politics.

  • Al Lamp

    Yours was a very useful and appreciated project. Thanks. Now, let me complain.

    Where is the meat of the conversations? What did you learn that changed your view? What can I learn (I’m an urban dweller) about the values and viewpoints of the rural dweller?

    I already knew that listening respectfully to someone with a different political and/or social point of view will make both of us feel better about each other, but what did you learn that will help me appreciate his/her political and/or social point of view?