What Would I Be Leaving Behind?

I am sad and don’t feel much like writing lately. It’s a real tragedy when an Arkansas bank lends a man over a million dollars to build chicken houses and then immediately my garden fills up with the mud from his farm. Is that part of my garden no longer organic? And what’s next?

It takes years to build up the soils to grow the vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers you see on the Volunteer Gardener Television Show. They were hoping to do more shows here, but that may not happen. I may be forced to leave my home, gardens and neighborhood, unless someone can talk him out of building them.

I can’t live downstream, downwind and down the hill from chicken houses. I won’t be able to teach my students here anymore, or grow stuff here to sell to my organic customers. What would I be leaving behind?

This log cabin was built in 1871 by old man Barton, and his grandchildren have visited me with great stories. The family of Kenslo Smalling visits regularly; Fran recently wrote me that her grandparents would have been proud of the gardens and the way we have fixed the place up.

Gardens take time. The blueberries were planted 12 years ago and are in full production with many people picking them each summer. I guess they are too big to move, and may get dusted with whatever blows out of the fans from right above them. The raspberries, blackberries and grapes will have to stay, too, and also no longer be organic.

Our friend “Crazy Owl” died recently. He was 83 and still loved to tend his roses and herb garden. I was hoping to keep it going, but I may have to leave it behind, too.

The cave, with its endangered bat population, is irreplaceable. Gorgeous rock formations and crystals grace the inside of this easy to enter cave, which is directly below the construction site and is now full of mud, too. We used it to cool down the vegetables before we ship them to our customers.

A few hundred customers, and a few high-end restaurants, are also sad to no longer get produce from here. The thousands of visitors will not get to visit anymore, and the hundreds of thousands won’t see these Macon County gardens on t.v. again, except for reruns.

The waterfall is beautiful, and the spring has tested to be of superior quality. Many folks have camped here for our organic events, workshops and conferences. We have built a couple of outhouses and were planning to turn a shed into a commercial kitchen so we could do more. My business was really booming.

Tons of stones were laid out back for a terrace and patio, and I guess they’ll stay. A root cellar was rebuilt and holds my canned vegetables. The barn loft held hay from the fields and hosted a few old-fashioned barn dances.

The rare classification of “exceptional water of Tennessee” does little to convey the beauty and diversity of life you find in the Long Hungry Creek. It’s not a good place for the chicken industry, but they don’t care. As the contract states, all decisions are Cobb’s and all the liability is on the owner.

I’ve been to where Cobb has been and left their legacy of broken communities, pollution and ugliness. But they will leave as quickly and as quietly as they came. I can’t stand all the secrecy and deception involved in their industry.

The saddest part for me is that I really love my neighbors. I don’t want to move away from them, they are very special people. Our friendship will last, even though Cobb is trying to put neighbor against neighbor.

As we research the impact of turning Macon County farms into chicken factories, we have learned a lot about where the money goes. We are happiest when we are together, joking and enjoying the company of good neighbors. I have to thank those who want Cobb here for one thing. It’s brought us closer and we will have each other long after Cobb is gone.

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