Downwind of the Big Dairy Farm

Nuvo Newsweekly, September 9, 2009

To those who were fortunate enough to be upwind of Samuel Lantz's dairy farm—in the corporate offices of an industrial livestock company, perhaps, or in certain corners of the Indiana State House—the events of autumn 2003 would not have raised many eyebrows. Samuel Lantz did what farmers all over Indiana do every year: He put up a barn, populated it with a herd of dairy cattle, and began milking.

It should also be noted that, in the later judgment of the good officials of both Wayne County and the state of Indiana, nothing about Lantz’ dairy farm violated a single one of the several government ordinances, laws or regulations enacted to protect the overall welfare of a farm’s neighbors. The design of the 168-foot hoop barn Lantz set up for his cattle was standard for such operations, as was the manure disposal system, in which Lantz used a power washer to wash the manure of roughly 90 cows down sloped floors to the barn’s interior pits, creating a slurry, which ran out of the barn and into a larger, uncovered manure pit.

Nor did Lantz’ choice of where to site that liquid manure pit violate any laws or rules. As the owner of a farm, he was free under Indiana law to construct the pit, euphemistically known in the industry as a “lagoon,” anywhere on his property he saw fit. As it turned out, according to filings from later legal proceedings, he built it 50 feet wide and eight feet deep—large enough to hold manure for just a month before it had to be stirred and emptied. And he built it approximately 246 feet west of his property line, less than 600 feet west of the home of his neighbors, Eric and Lisa Stickdorn.

According to the Purdue Extension—a respected statewide source of technical advice on modern agricultural methods—a typical mature dairy cow weighing 1,400 pounds, when well-fed, generates approximately two cubic feet of feces and urine per day. Add the water to power-wash that waste to its storage lagoon and you get 2.5 cubic feet per cow per day. For a herd of 90 cows, that’s about eight cubic yards and eight tons of manure—every day of the year.

Despite the fact that Lantz’ decisions about how to site and operate the various buildings and structures of his confinement dairy operation violated no rules or regulations of the state of Indiana, Lantz’ manure lagoon now stood 15 feet uphill from the Stickdorns’ 19th-century farmhouse. Equally significant, the prevailing winds in the area ensured that, more often than not, the Lantz’ manure lagoon sat directly upwind of where the Stickdorns worked, slept and lived.

Beginning on Oct. 14, 2003, Lantz brought in the cows, the cows did what cows do, and Lantz’ lagoon began filling. Before long Lantz’ lagoon was full of a slurry of cow manure. Lantz then agitated the manure and loaded the slurry into a manure wagon, which resembled a miniature tanker truck pulled by horses, and he spread it in brown smears on his then-fallow corn fields, which were also uphill and generally upwind from the Stickdorns.

“As soon as the livestock were there, we noticed a strong odor we had never noticed before,” Eric Stickdorn says. And so began a trial unlike anything the Stickdorns had ever endured.

Restoring the land

On a warm August day at the Stickdorn’s farm, Eric Stickdorn reaches down, tears off a few blades of grass from the back lawn of their farmhouse, and tosses them in the air. A light breeze blows the grass at an angle toward the neighboring dairy. “That’s pretty much south, maybe a little southeast,” Stickdorn says. It’s a good day. “That’s why we’re not smelling anything,” he explains.

At 49, Eric Stickdorn stands six foot three, with an unlined face and a mane of white hair; his mellifluous voice and gentle manner belie his physical presence. His wife, Lisa, is slim with thick, shoulder-length brown hair, a cautious demeanor and a love for animals.

Both Eric and Lisa Stickdorn come from rural backgrounds—Eric from north of Columbus, Ohio, and Lisa from outside of South Bend—and in 1989, a few years after they married, they decided to pursue a long-time dream of farming. They bought a small farm in Hancock County, which was close enough to Indianapolis for Eric to commute to his full-time job there as an electrical engineer (which he still holds), but far enough out that they could keep a few horses, including an Arabian Quarter horse cross named Sam that Lisa had ridden since she was a teenager.

Soon they bought a couple of cattle from one neighbor, some sheep from another, then a few more sheep at the sale barn, then some chickens at an auction. The Stickdorns wanted to raise their animals naturally and humanely. Their animals reproduced. “As naive as we were, we thought if you had more livestock, you should have a bigger farm,” Eric Stickdorn says. So in 1994 they sold their farm in Hancock County and bought a spent 120-acre grain farm a few dozen miles east in Wayne County, near the Henry County line.

At the edge of his yard, Eric Stickdorn and I gaze over one of the couple’s pastures, its grass still green from the cool, wet summer, its uneven ground speckled white with Queen Anne’s lace. In the field lie a patch of prairie grass, five round bales of hay, and a nursery of juvenile trees, both evergreens and hardwoods, overdue to be transplanted. Stickdorn describes the area’s original ecosystem—forest with patches of prairie grass that bison grazed on—as a complex ecosystem that maintained the land’s fertility. That’s his model for the pasture, for his efforts to revive the fertility of his spent farmland.

Stickdorn waxes enthusiastic about the web of life in that bygone ecosystem: how the bison would graze, defecate on the grass, stomp manure into the soil; how dung beetles would burrow into buffalo pies, drawing manure and more nutrients into the soil. All this, along with thatch from the ungrazed grass, made the ground richer and better able to soak up rain water as well, preventing runoff and erosion. “It’s great recycling, and it’s cheap! There’s no work involved in it. The animals and the little bugs do all the work, it constantly improves the soil, and it doesn’t pollute,” he says.

As the Stickdorns describe it, their first decade at the farm was full of hard work, yet almost idyllic. They grazed their sheep, which numbered near 100 at one point, and their cattle, on the reviving land. Eric talked to other farmers, read widely in farm and conservation publications, and experimented, and the couple painstakingly bred a local breed of Black Angus cattle that fatten efficiently while eating only grass. Lisa tended the livestock—feeding sheep and cattle, tossing around square bales and wrestling reluctant sheep, birthing lambs and calves.

They cooked often—brownies at night were a favorite—and had friends and neighbors over to visit. Their extended family would often visit and stay for the weekend. “Every day the air was fresh and made you feel good,” Eric says.

A cloud of confusion

Within a month after the odor from Samuel Lantz’ cattle began to permeate the Stickdorns' house in October 2003, both Eric and Lisa Stickdorn developed some new and disturbing symptoms. “We began to experience a lot of coughing and had fluid in our lungs,” Eric says. “We started having mysterious joint and tendon pains. We had [earaches] and headaches. We had really bad shortness of breath.”

A fatigue crept over Lisa. She’d been exercising hard on top of her farm work. “I thought I just overdid it. I quit exercising and still felt really, really tired. I couldn’t figure it out.”

She developed a recurring sinus infection. She began feeling nauseated every morning, then she’d vomit; her symptoms led her to call in sick to her job at the community college. She knew she wasn’t pregnant, so she couldn’t understand what was going on. “It was like I caught the flu, except it was just not going away,” she recalls. Finally, she started dragging herself to work. “Sick as I felt, a couple of hours after being at work, I started feeling better, and by the end of the day I felt pretty normal again. Then we’d come home here at night and the whole cycle would start all over again. That’s when it started hitting me that it was here that was making me sick.”

As fall turned to winter, Lantz applied manure to his fields, even when they were frozen or covered with snow, Eric Stickdorn says. If he’d had 300 or more head of cattle, the level that triggers state water-pollution regulation of confined feeding operations, such a practice would have been prohibited because manure that sits on frozen or saturated ground runs off easily. The Stickdorns have two streams on their property, both of which ran from Lantz’ land, and by Eric Stickdorn’s account they regularly ran brown and foamy.

Then February 2004 came around. “That’s when what I call the curtain of death came across our farm,” Eric recalls. He struggles for words to describe the stench. “It’s like there’s an overflowing port-a-john inside our house,” he says. Or, “It is, just literally, run for your life.”

Both Eric and Lisa developed a painful burning of the mouth. “My tongue was like millions of pins and needles, or like scalding my mouth with hot coffee,” Eric recalls. “Sometimes it was so bad it would make my teeth and cheeks hurt.” Both Eric and Lisa’s lungs began to burn.

They consulted doctors, starting with their general practitioner, who referred them to a respiratory specialist for their recurrent coughs, to another specialist for blood tests. There were tests for diabetes, for lung function. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong. The general practitioner did deduce something important, though. He told them to move out of their home.

They wouldn’t. They needed to take care of the cattle, the chickens, their cats, their property. Then Eric developed severe, bleeding eczema. “There was insane itching. You feel like you want to rip the flesh from your bones. It oozed, and there was running pus and blood.” He began to lose his memory, and began to carry around a little 3X5 notebook in his shirt pocket to jot things down, a habit he continues to this day. Other symptoms developed. “We smelled manure on our breath, and coming out of the palms of our hands,” he recalls. “Everywhere you go, you stink.”

As winter turned to spring, their house had soaked up so much stench that they were forced to get creative. They plunked mattresses and sleeping bags on their back porch for more than three weeks in April, then, when that didn’t work, moved them to the bed of their pickup truck out in the driveway. “We wanted to stay here so bad,” Eric says. But the stench returned regularly. After barely sleeping for six weeks straight—“people at work said I looked like a dead man,” Eric recalls—their pastor offered to let them sleep in the basement of their church, the Locust Grove Church of the Brethren in New Castle.

On June 1, 2004, nine months after Lantz had moved his cattle in, Eric and Lisa Stickdorn took their pastor up on his offer. They saw it as a temporary retreat.

The smell of money

In 2004 Mitch Daniels smelled opportunity—economic and political. Hogs had long been part of Indiana farm life, but their numbers were down statewide. Meanwhile, leading hog producing companies were looking to expand to new areas, in part because of a moratorium on large new livestock facilities called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in North Carolina, one of the nation’s leading hog producers. In CAFOs and their slightly smaller cousins, confined feeding operations (CFOs), animals are confined in pens their whole lives. Daniels, then a gubernatorial candidate, promised to double pork production in the state. Once elected, he “welcomed the industry with open arms,” says Bowden Quinn of the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, who tracks the environmental impact of the state’s industrial livestock operations.

Daniels has continued to promote the livestock industry, and industry in general. “We think the livestock production sector is a great economic driver for the state,” says Sarah Simpson, assistant director for regulatory affairs at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

To help encourage livestock production in Indiana, in 2005 Daniels signed an amendment to the state’s Right to Farm law, sponsored by a state legislator who’d been a hog farmer. The amendment limits a farm’s neighbors from filing nuisance lawsuits against farms of any size. He discouraged counties from adopting regulations on CFOs or CAFOs that were more stringent than the state’s. Shortly after he was elected, he told Indiana Department of Environmental Management employees that their top priority should be to help businesses create new jobs in Indiana, according to an Associated Press report: "Nowhere can a bigger difference be made more swiftly than by the people in this room," Daniels said.

Since Samuel Lantz kept about 90 cattle on his farm, significantly below the 300 head of cattle that triggers the state to designate a dairy as a confined feeding operation, the only rules that applied to Lantz’ operation were state laws that keep any citizen from polluting and the local ordinances that prohibit anyone from becoming a nuisance to his neighbor.

Lantz, who lived on his farm with his wife Mattie and their four children, says, “We were just there as a family farm, trying to make a living.”

Country perfume

As bacteria in an animal’s intestines and in manure break down the protein in animal feed, they release a cocktail of chemicals, many of which can waft through the air to our nostrils, creating the odor known by certain rural residents as “country perfume.” Farmers and their families have tolerated the smell of manure for as long as they’ve raised livestock. But as today’s industrial farming methods have concentrated large numbers of animals into confined pens, they’ve also concentrated the resulting waste and fumes.

Those fumes include a blend of air pollutants, including ammonia, volatile organic chemicals and hydrogen sulfide that, depending on the dose, can be harmful or toxic. The most dangerous of these is hydrogen sulfide, which creates the familiar rotten-egg smell, says Neil Carman, a chemist who once did safety inspections of oil refineries and cattle feedlots for the state of Texas, and now directs the clean air program of the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club. Hydrogen sulfide targets tissues that are exposed to air—eyes, nose and throat—and those that require a lot of energy, such as the lungs, heart and brain. “It’s a very nasty pollutant,” Carman says.

In 2003, Kaye Kilburn, a prominent toxicologist formerly with the University of Southern California School of Medicine, reported a study comparing specific brain functions in 19 patients exposed to sub-lethal hydrogen sulfide levels with 202 patients who weren’t. The exposed patients experienced dizziness and poorer balance, increased reaction time, insomnia, mood alterations, memory damage and overpowering fatigue.

When manure slurry in lagoons is agitated prior to spreading, large amounts of hydrogen sulfide can be rapidly released, according to an extensive and rigorously vetted report released in April by the Pew Commission on Indusrial Farm Animal Production. “Almost every year people who work on farms have gone into manure pits and died” from hydrogen sulfide poisoning, Indra Frank, an Indianapolis pathologist and public health specialist, says. A 1995 study of people living near North Carolina CAFOs found more depression, anger, fatigue and confusion than in those who lived several miles farther away.

In large confinement operations, where huge numbers of chickens, hogs and cattle are crowded into tight quarters, infection spreads easily, and many of the livestock are treated with low doses of antibiotics, which can prevent infections from spreading as well as boosting the efficiency with which the animals put on weight. Between 30 and 70 percent of antibiotics used in this country are used in livestock, including many that are also used to treat human infections. Several studies have traced antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria back to the farm, including Campylobacter and Salmonella. One strain, methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, commonly known as MRSA (pronounced "mursa"), is particularly dangerous. MRSA kills 18,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most of them are infected in hospitals, but in recent years the microbe has begun causing infections, which are often mistaken at first for spider bites, in the community.

In January, microbiologist Tara Smith of the University of Iowa reported in the journal PLoS One that a MRSA strain called ST398, thought to be unique to swine in this country, showed up in workers in Illinois and Iowa hog CAFOs. Microbiologist Lance Price of TGen, an Arizona research institute, has published several studies linking antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock with resistant infections in people, and testified in Congress and in front of the Indiana Senate. He says that antibiotic use in CAFOs “has been a driving force for resistance in the human community.”

Fumes and runoff

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:15).

The Bible, Eric Stickdorn believed, offered all the guidance he needed to live. He and Lisa had been baptized in 2002 in the swimming pool of some friends, and were now evangelical; they drew on their faith to make it through their ordeal. They tried talking with Lantz, went before Lantz’ Amish church and that community’s elders, but could come to no agreement.

They moved from the church basement to a camper, lent by their pastor, and from June through September 2004, lived in a campground just a few miles from their home. Each day they’d return to do farm chores, dreaming of the day they’d move back.

Eric began educating himself on the law. The previous spring, when “the stream out front looked like a root beer float,” he says, he called the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the first time. IDEM wrote Lantz a notice of violation, but the stench and pollution continued. In September 2004, he discovered another manure spill, when a second stream on his farm “looked as black as licorice.”

Although state rules prohibiting the application of manure to frozen or snow-covered ground apply only to confined feeding operations with more than 300 cattle, if smaller feeding operations like Lantz’ dairy violate water pollution laws, they then become subject to the same rules.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management ordered as much, and Lantz then says he did as ordered, redirecting the waste stream from his milking parlor (the section of his barn where cows are milked) to the manure pit rather than into a drainage pipe called a field tile that emptied into one of the streams. But he did not cover the manure lagoon to contain the odors, and he kept emptying the lagoon once a month and applying manure to fields near the Stickdorns. He also appealed the decision to the Office of Environmental Adjudication, an administrative court that handles appeals of IDEM’s decisions. While that appeal was in process, he sold the dairy in 2005 to another member of the local Amish community, a farmer named Elam Zook.

Lantz says he worked in good faith, including checking out covers to the lagoon, but was told by an engineer that in his lagoon they were impractical. “We had all kinds of inspectors on the farm,” Lantz told NUVO. “We got tired of it and we sold the farm and got out of it.” But Kim Ferraro of the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana, Inc. (LEAF), an environmental attorney who now represents the Stickdorns, says that the sale “was done to preserve the operation in its current form.”

In 2005, Zook, the new owner, appealed IDEM’s cleanup order to the Office of Environmental Adjudication, an ostensibly independent administrative court linked to IDEM where an environmental law judge hears appeals of IDEM rulings. As a new owner and small family farmer, he argued, the ruling shouldn’t apply to him. In 2006, a hearing was held, and nine months later the judge ruled for Zook.

Nothing changed, and the stench and manure spills continued. The Stickdorn’s streams would run brown, Eric Stickdorn says, and several times a swale on their back lawn was a foot deep with “sewer water.” IDEM would sometimes send an inspector, sometimes not. When they did come, “sometimes they’d go to the wrong place, or they’d take a real quick reading and say, 'oh, everything’s fine,'“ he recalls. Once he came upon an inspector taking samples from the wrong stream; the inspector hadn’t asked him where the spill was.

Max Michael, the agency’s head of emergency management, met with Eric at his house with three other IDEM employees. Stickdorn, following Biblical advice, brought a witness, Jim Webb, a New Castle grain farmer, neighbor, and friend. Michael proposed to send inspectors only if three conditions were met: a fish kill, a quarter mile of foam from the pollution, and manure-laden water running across Stickdorn’s 120-acre property and onto someone else’s. Stickdorn refused. “It was flat ridiculous,” Webb tells NUVO. “You shouldn’t have to let manure get into a running stream and across your property. [IDEM] is there to control stuff like this, and they’re not doing their job.”

IDEM responded in a statement that “all staff who have been contacted by Mr. Stickdorn, including Mr. Michael, have worked to respond appropriately to his concerns and ensure that the agency is responding appropriately to investigate potential spills and environmental impacts.” IDEM added that its staff had visited the site 13 times and “have not seen evidence of spills or environmental impacts to date.”

Across the state, more and more neighbors of large dairy and swine CFOs and CAFOs have begun complaining about their environmental impacts, including air pollution, dead animal parts showing up on their property, and manure spills. A large manure lagoon of a defunct CAFO run by Muncie Sow Unit, sat open to the elements for three years, says Barbara Cox, a farmer, retired nurse and grandmother who runs Indiana CAFO Watch, a grass-roots group of rural residents that fights industrial livestock’s harmful impacts.

In May, the Muncie Star reported that unknown people had used earth moving equipment to breach the earthen wall of a large manure lagoon of a defunct CAFO run by Muncie Sow Unit, spilling an estimated 4 to 5 million gallons of raw manure into a ditch that fed into the Mississinewa River, killing more than 1,000 fish. (Bruce Palin, assistant commissioner for IDEM’s Office of Land Quality, argues that in that case “We were dealing with a responsible party who was not very cooperative, and that forced us to go through various legal actions to try to get compliance.”)

In Randolph County, about 15 miles from the Stickdorns, a large dairy CAFO called Union-Go has experienced numerous environmental problems, including failing to maintain the required two feet of space between the liquid manure level and the top of the lagoon, at least two manure spills into nearby creeks, and huge bubbles in the plastic liner that’s supposed to sit underneath the lagoon, protecting the groundwater from contamination.

Allen Hutchison, who farms corn, beans and raises draft ponies adjacent to Union-Go, tells NUVO that his house stinks so bad sometimes that his daughter can no longer bring his granddaughter to visit, because her asthma is exacerbated by the bad air. And when the dairy spilled so much manure into the creek that ran through his property that it turned a solid brown, an IDEM inspector watched all day as Union-Go workers pumped manure out of the ditch and into a tanker truck to recover it. Hutchison wanted the inspector to sample and test the water in his ditch. “I asked him three times to test the water and he never did do it," Hutchison says. But he does pay to test his own well water, which he and his wife drink from.

IDEM has responded to Union-Go’s problems, including their failing manure lagoon, in a way. They’ve approved plans for the dairy to expand to accommodate 1,975 cows—an increase of about 300 animals, and to build a new manure lagoon.

IDEM's Palin, who oversees most environmental regulation of livestock operations, says that environmental regulation of CFOs and CAFOs is stringent. “From my perspective, our state program is much more stringent and protective than the federal program,” and the rules are rigorously enforced, Palin says.

But are the rules what they could be? Minnesota and Colorado have air pollution rules for CAFOs that might have prevented an ongoing situation like the Stickdorns experienced, Indiana doesn’t, says Quinn, of the Sierra Club, “because they say we don’t have the science to say this level is safe and others are not safe.” The U.S. EPA plans to promulgate federal air pollution regulations for CAFOs, but only after an air quality study run by a Purdue scientist is completed, which could take several years.

Barbara Cox of Indiana CAFO Watch pushes at the Indiana State House for tighter state laws. Such bills have been introduced by several state representatives and have passed the House. They include proposals for a three-year-moratorium on CFOs and CAFOs until better regulations are in place; proposals requiring such operations to be set back between half a mile and two miles from schools, rivers, reservoirs and state parks, and proposals for performance bonds that would require owners to put up the money to cover damage from possible manure spills. In most cases they passed the House, were referred to the Energy and Environment Committee in the Senate, which is chaired by Senator Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield). This year Gard permitted a vote on her own CFO and CAFO bill, which required, for the first time, that neighbors of a proposed CFO or CAFO operation be notified and that operators like Muncie Sow Unit with a bad track record not be licensed. But Gard has blocked each of the stronger bills from coming to a vote, Cox says. Gard did not return a call from NUVO seeking comment.

The struggle continues

All things work together for good for them that love God. (Romans 8:28).

Eric needed to believe that verse, hold it close to his heart, witness how it applied to his life. “We believe that when we go through trials and tribulations, that God has a reason,” he says. As months away from the farmhouse turned into years, the Stickdorns lived in a succession of places—an apartment, one rental home, then a second.

With no help from the state, Stickdorn turned to Ferraro of LEAF, a recently formed organization that seeks to protect Indiana's environment through the legal system. Ferraro believed Wayne County’s zoning ordinances should have protected the Stickdorns, because if one’s use of a property poses a nuisance to its neighbors, it typically violates a zoning ordinance. The Stickdorns petitioned the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to inspect the dairy next door to see if it imposed a nuisance. When the inspector finally came, he refused to inspect the dairy, citing the state’s Right to Farm law, which exempts “reasonable and customary” agriculture uses from nuisance protection.

The Stickdorns still live in a small rental house, and they still return to the farm every day to care for their chickens and their herd of 43 grass-fed cattle. On a good day, when the wind blows toward their neighbors, Lisa says, “I can work in the garden and clean out the chicken coop and I can mow the grass. Then there are some days when we get home from work and feed everybody, and we’ve got to go. Whatever we plan to do, we can’t.”

Today is a good day, and the Stickdorns sit with me at their kitchen table and talk. Photos and magazine clippings are stuck to the refigerator with magnets. Their cookbooks still sit on a low shelf in the kitchen; a kitten on a wall calendar looks out with wide-eyes, as if to see who’ll help it.

“This is the worst assault we’ve ever experienced in our whole lives. It was unnecessary. We tried to tell people, but they ignored us,” Eric says.

In 2008, their appeals to the state and county exhausted, the Stickdorns threatened their current neighbor, Zook, with a civil lawsuit to force him to take measures to stem the stench and pollution, such as installing a cover on his lagoon and using a technique called knifing to inject the manure into the soil, rather than spreading it on top. All of these solutions are affordable and technically feasible, Ferraro and Eric Stickdorn say. To head off a lawsuit, Ferraro drafted what would be a legally binding agreement between the Stickdorns and their neighbors to ensure these measures are taken. In exchange for the changes specified by the agreement, the Stickdorns would have agreed to release the Zooks and Lantzes from all civil claims for their past activities.

In September 2008, Ferraro, Zook, Lantz and their attorney all met at the local public library. Zook and his attorney appeared to agree to the changes, Stickdorn says. But Zook never signed, and today denies that he should be regulated at all. “We’re way below the threshold to be a CFO, and we’ve never had a violation,” Zook says. There may be other reasons he refused to sign. “They want control of me and my farm,” Zook says. “If I’d sign that agreement, it would be just like I’m signing away my life to him.”

So the Stickdorns return to their farm each day to care for their cats, their chickens, their cattle. They’ve yet to file suit, but say it’s heading that way. Still, they pray for their neighbors, for their safety, well-being, and health. “It has to be bad for their health, too,” Eric says.

They’ve learned a few things, and want to make a few things clear. At the kitchen table, Lisa’s voice softens, and her husband gazes at her with admiration. She has always had high regard for the few farmers who farm sustainably and humanely while caring for the environment, she says. “But now I have the highest admiration to them for their perseverance and caring despite the hostile political environment that surrounds them, and in the face of the machine industrial agriculture has become.”