I remember being shocked while scrolling through my Facebook feed and first seeing the viral photo. It seemed pretty benign at first: a cornstalk. But when I looked closer, the problem became clear. Someone had wrapped a chain around it. And it was disguised so that the unsuspecting farmer combining the field would pull it up into the machine. I can’t even imagine what would happen then.
Who did it? Hard to tell. Maybe it was local teens. Maybe it was an anti-GMO activists. But we’ve all likely experienced something like this. Impatient drivers behind your tractor. The person who purposely drives over your field. Someone stealing fruit out of the orchard. Drones flying into your animal barn.
It seems more and more common.
So what should you do when something like this happens? While the best course of action will vary depending on the situation, here’s some things to consider.
1. Call local law enforcement.
This should probably always be your first thought, even when it seems like there’s not much the police can actually do. But officers can only do something if they have information. And at the very least, you’re creating a record. So if the perpetrators are eventually caught, there’s evidence of all their crimes.
Now I’ll be the first to admit we’ve had some disappointing responses from local law enforcement. Just this past harvest season, my mom called to report a driver who was driving recklessly around the combine while it was being moved from one field to the next. She’s managed to snap some photos on her phone, including his license plate number, because she was following. But police said there was no evidence and they couldn’t do anything. That was straight-up a lie. I’m still glad mom spoke with them though. You don’t know unless you call.
2. Photograph, photograph, photograph.
Photographs are most definitely evidence. And we live in a time when we all have a camera in our pocket. So use it!
Make sure you take multiple photos at various distances and angles. There’s virtually no limit to the amount of photos we can take, and that’s something you should take advantage of. It can help investigators and others who look at the situation later.
3. Limit social media exposure. Or don’t.
This one is a little tricky. Because sometimes social media is a powerful tool that can help you catch the person doing the deed. In a small town, word spreads fast and everyone knows each other. Or it creates attention and awareness that stops the illicit activities. So social media has advantages.
But be careful about what you post. Increasingly we see social-media posts coming into evidence during litigation. And unless you’re legally savvy, you could say something that might hurt your case later. If you think you might wind up in court, it’s probably best to consult an attorney before posting anything. Because what you say could end up in front of a jury.
4. To confront or not to confront?
That is definitely the question. The safest bet is not to interfere if you see someone doing something. You have no idea if the person doing the deed is carrying a weapon, has a tendency toward aggression (I mean, probably …), or suffering from some other issues. Your best bet is to step back, call police, and get the camera rolling.
But we also know that sometimes law enforcement doesn’t care (see above). And some situations may call for intervention. It doesn’t hurt to know a thing or two about your state’s self-defense laws and how far they extend, especially when it comes to property.
I sincerely hope these types of instances completely disappear. But I’m doubtful. The best plan, though, is to actually have a plan. We can’t always foresee the crazy things people will do, but we can take time to think about how we want to react.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.