SIX NATIONS ‑ ATVs and dirt bikes can be a lot of fun when used properly and respectfully of other people’s property, but for local Six Nations farmers, damage done to local crops this year at six locations alone tops an estimated 95 acres of lost produce and grain.
To put that in perspective, there is an average yield of around 40 bushels an acre. After the cost of planting and harvesting the farmer gets about $12.50 per bushel. That works out to be around $47,000 in lost revenue this year alone.
Six Nations Farmers Association President, Ralph Sowden, and Chief Administrative Officer, Art Porter, are reaching out to local parents and ATV riders to educate them about the extent and cost of the damage caused by unthinking riders of all ages.
The SNFA had begun an educational tour of Six Nations schools to talk about the respect for the environment and for those who make their living by feeding the world.
“It (the crop damage) kind of settled down a bit there for a while after we got the Six Nations Police involved to go with us to the schools and asked the children not to be driving through our fields,” says Porter.
Part of the visits was also to show the students how plants grow, the work and cost that is involved, and how important farming is.
“Most kids don’t think about it,” Porter says. “They think food comes from the grocery store and that’s about it.”
Every year the cost goes up making the damage created by riders even more intolerable for many farmers.
“We have to get every kernel we can to make our ends meet and have a little something left over every year,” says Porter.
Spin-off costs can also be created by the ruts these makeshift trails cause in the form of added wear and tear on farm equipment hitting these deep ruts as well as the compacted soil which in time will not grow anything.
This year crop damage has become bad again and the SNFA is once again hoping to educate the people of Six Nations, hopefully, to reduce the problem for next year.
“Even when a farmer catches someone and reports it to police, not much if anything is done,” says Sowden.
On one field in particular, the usual yield should have been 40 bushels, but this year’s yield was down to between 15-17 bushels, a significant loss.
Part of the issue isn’t only joy riders, but hunters as well.
“I think it gets worse during hunting season. People don’t care much if you stay to the edges of a field where less damage is done, but to go right through the centre of a field to retrieve a deer or follow one, that is what really causes the damage,” says Porter. “People used to walk when they went hunting. Now they take an ATV.”
Sowden adds that once one goes through and leaves a track, others soon follow and it becomes a roadway.
SNFA has appealed to both the Confederacy and the Elected Band Council to get involved and help stop the problem, but not enough has been done, outside of the school visits. A council was formed including a representative from the Council and the Confederacy but it too hasn’t amounted to much.
Sowden and Porter are frustrated that trespassing laws are not enforced very much at Six Nations, if at all, since there are no by-laws here. That is why they are appealing to Band Members to tell their children to stay to the trails when riding and to stay out of planted fields themselves when hunting.
To be fair, they both say they are aware that many hunters or riders do stay to the outside of a field, but there are far too many who do not.