It’s a lament tossed around a little bit too often these days: ‘Greedy’ farmers selling their land for more homes are destroying Manteca.
Those posting such self-righteous content are often doing so from the comfort of their 3,200-square-foot home on an 8,000-square-foot lot that is slurping up enormous amounts of water to keep lawns green so they have something pretty to look at and add “value” — not to mention conformity — to their home.
Rare is the home in the Central Valley that at one point in the past 70 years wasn’t built on land once used to grow crops or was planted in almonds.
The odds are when they’re not busy using their various devices to blame the Valley’s never-ending growth on the “audacity” of farmers to enjoy the same things in life they want for their own families, they may be using an app to order from Amazon.
That Amazon order they are placing may be coming from the distribution center on North Airport Way in Manteca that stands where just over a decade ago there was a dairy farm.
Or it could be routed through the Amazon Prime delivery hub on Louise Avenue in Manteca where a magnesium plant built during World War II on land that once grew wheat and was demolished to make way for a business park.
The need for people that live in homes built on land that once was farmed to have an item within two hours of placing an order has unleashed a large fleet of vans that add to the pounding and congestion of Valley roads.
This is all supposedly the fault of a farmer that is condemned as greedy because they sell their land.
Farmers, it should be noted, do not sell their land — which is their livelihood — multiple times during their life so they can get bigger and better land or move to areas to create a better opportunity for their families as well as profit from appreciation.
In the past 35 years, it has been rare that a farmer sold land — which in many cases is their retirement asset as opposed to fat stock options of swashbuckling tech workers or more pedestrian employer retirement plans — to “cash out.”
The exceptions are several dairy farmers boxed in by growth and with operations too small to be profitable much longer that have just upped and sold and gotten out of farming. To get self-righteous at them for doing so is real rich given their real wealth is in their land. It is their retirement plan after having to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day for most of their lives.
Others that have sold almond orchards and such, they bought land elsewhere farther from growing Valley cities to raise crops and plant orchards.
Farmers grow the food we want on land including ground that we have no problem with having been converted into 8,000-square-foot lots at some point because we want to be able to live in a house with a yard in an area we can afford to buy. Yet when others want to do the same we become indignant.
And if developers — who are obviously all part of an evil money hungry cabal in cahoots with elected officials so that we can live in homes and our kids when they grow up can buy homes as well — want to slow down the conversion of land to build small homes on smaller lots, we become beyond indignant.
The same people bemoaning the conversion of farmland to housing turn around and try to kill smaller lots with smaller homes because they are being created essentially blocks from their own 8,000-square-foot lot.
It is contempt, pure and simple.
And it is supported by two positions they have staked out.
The first is essentially now that they bought a newly built home no one else should be able to buy a newly built home.
The second is the clear inference they want the city to protect their home value by only allowing similar sized homes on similar sized lots or bigger homes on bigger lots to be built near them.
Of course, there is the darker implication that they may be driven by the assumption smaller homes and smaller lots equals “those kinds of people.”
Just like all duplexes and all apartments were once associated in the minds of many — and unfortunately in a few cases still are — as breeding ground for crime, blight and a magnet for people that aren’t a carbon copy of their social-economic status, so are smaller homes on smaller lots.
The “now that we’ve got ours and to hell with everyone else” mentality is just as bad.
There was a time just 20 years ago that all Valley shopping centers were surrounded by almond orchards.
But to accuse the supposed “greed” of farmers for it is disingenuous.