The Farmhouse Fairytale


Waking up at 5:15 A.M. to your wife yelling, “Honey, the cows are out!” is likely to get
your blood pumping a little earlier than normal. Is there another sentence that evokes such an
immediate reaction of fear, panic, shock and frustration in cattle ranchers than the news that their
livestock are no longer where they are supposed to be? Chances are, if you raise cattle or
neighbor someone who does, you’ve experienced the chaos that can ensue when the cows are
Living in rural America has its perks. For many of us, living on the outskirts is a way of
life. We raise livestock and poultry, grow and harvest crops and hay, and enjoy the quietness. In
recent years, more and more people have taken a liking to the way rural living sounds. Thanks to
Chip and Joanna Gaines, farmhouse décor, galvanized containers, exposed hardwood and brick,
and white cabinets are likely what comes to mind when urbanized folks think of living in the
country. They have a pretty, picturesque idea of what living on a farm is like, and sure, I love a
good sunset backdrop and watching the cows graze, but that is not a constant reality. In fact,
there are impromptu rodeos and wrangling of livestock, funky smells, and inaudible yelling
matches from the barns when things aren’t quite going as planned. All of those have one thing in
common: they can travel across property lines and be considered a nuisance to new,
inexperienced neighbors. Avoiding the hustle and bustle of inner-city life is a primary benefit of
rural living, but with the growing popularity of urban sprawl, there a few things us rural natives
should keep in mind – especially when the new neighbors move in from the metroplex.
It may seem cool at first to witness a cowboy wrangle his livestock from the road when
they’ve found an escape route in the fence. It might be a novel idea to wake up to the croaking
scream of a rooster, but sunrise comes early. Lighting a candle to drown out the smell of the
neighboring poultry farm is convenient until the smell becomes so strong that nothing covers it
up. Rural natives are used to these agricultural inconveniences and are far more forgiving than
the new neighbor will be. In many cases, urban sprawl is the culprit of the farmhouse fairytale.
Urban sprawl is a far-reaching problem. It’s defined as the uncontrolled expansion of
urban areas. There are a few ways to build a space up. In one method, you fit as many people
into an area as you can, and you continue developing in a tightly knit, close, planned area that’s
well-maintained and easy to correct. If people built this way, we wouldn’t have as many issues
with expansion as we currently do. The problem is, people don’t build this way. When someone
chooses to build a home or a developer decides to build on a plot, they often look for areas that
offer some space. That means you’ll get a house in the middle of the woods, then a small
development a mile away, then another house somewhere between the two. People like to have
the illusion of living in a rural area while still being close to everything a city has to offer: hence,
urban sprawl.
This issue is very real, and it has a lot of different impacts. It forces wildlife to move to
increasingly smaller habitats, while it forces individuals to rely more heavily on personal
transportation instead of being able to use mass transit. Urban sprawl isn’t just impacting the
environment, it’s also affecting farmers and the agriculture industry. Individual farmers are in a
risky line of work where anything that goes wrong can frequently represent a massive setback. In
fact, farming is such a difficult and costly operation, multiple families often choose to run one

large farm cooperatively. Doing so allows them to split the cost of the immensely expensive
machinery and land.
As a population increases, the traffic does too. There’s a good reason you’ll never see a
combine tractor driving through downtown Houston! Farmers who are dealing with new
developments will face the same issues, and GPS mapping has only made the problem worse.
People now take shortcuts to avoid traffic, but these are the same roads farmers need to use to
transport their massive tractors and semis full of food. It makes the travel much less safe for
them and the people around them.
Traffic isn’t the only issue. Food is a real, necessary resource. Urban sprawl eats the land
up in a disorganized, thoughtless manner. Farmers already try and make the most of the land they
have, and as the global population continues to increase, that need will only become more
necessary. With less land available to purchase, farms that are doing well can’t expand and
create more food for everyone, which forces them to rely on other options. Some of those are
good, effective tools, but ultimately, nothing can replace the need for land.
The agriculture industry, as a whole, is a behemoth. It not only needs a massive amount
of space, but it generates an enormous income for industries and individuals. Environmentalists
push us to “eat local,” meaning we should buy food grown close to where we live. The problem
with that is, thanks to urban sprawl, farms close to town often aren’t large enough to feed
expanding populations. The larger the demand on the farms becomes, the more they need land to
expand. If farmers must compete with urban sprawl to keep up with demand, they often have to
move farther away from the city, which leads to the same problem of needing to transport food
over long distances.
So far, expected results are increased food prices, less food stability and decreased
natural resources. If we look at urban sprawl in already developed areas like the U.S., we see
farmers often either have to lock into their small areas and try to meet increased demands or sell
their land for development. Neither of those options allows people to make the most of their
land. Farmers and the agriculture industry face many challenges. They’re competing with other
companies, but also with an expanding population and a changing climate. We are consuming
land at an alarming rate, and failing to use it responsibly. Fighting urban sprawl may not be an
appealing choice, but it is a necessary one.
You see, this is more than just a population control issue. For rural communities, the way
we live is often a direct correlation to our livelihood. Urban sprawl is affecting the way farmers
farm and the means by which they do their job. With all of this comes a vastly uneducated
population of people who know next to nothing about agriculture. In this case, we have two
options: we can turn the other way and hope they leave (unlikely) or we can fight the good fight
and educate them. Teach them how to properly grow their tomatoes, encourage them to buy
some laying hens and gather their own eggs, and inform them of the trials and tribulations that a
farmer and rancher face each and every day. If we educate them, maybe then they can begin to

appreciate the American farmer and understand that when the cows get out, its more than a real-
life rodeo. To learn more about the effects of urban sprawl, visit