Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Find Good Connections

In my previous post, I lamented the lack of glamorous photo opportunities available to us in the places we live, but encouraged you to find the story your town is trying to tell and to go tell it.  

It’s not just the town or city in which we live that has a tale to tell, but the people in those places who live the story that are worth the telling.

So over the weekend I hopped in my car and traveled a good hour or so until I was deep into the rural farmlands of Georgia.  The landscape was rich with life and although the images I captured may not be National Geographic worthy, they are still worthy. 

I happened upon an odd looking contraption on someone’s property that I thought would make a fascinating shot.  I parked in the grass, went up to the front door of the little home and knocked on the door to ask permission to shoot the object on the property. No answer, so I just helped myself.  It wasn’t too long until an older man, thought not one I would categorize as an old man, puttered up on a Suzuki 4x4.  He turned out to be the owner of the property.  And not just the owner of the property, but the owner of dozens of acres of farmland in Long County.

I told the man I’d seen this interesting thing, whatever it was, and asked permission to shoot it, which he granted me heart-feltedly.  He introduced himself as L.W. Burkholder and as we talked, he told me how he bought the land from his parents, who inherited it from theirs, and how generations of Burkholders, whom he believed to be German but wasn’t quite positive, bought the land all those many decades ago.

Now Mr. Burkholder doesn’t have email, doesn’t much like the computer either, but he does have an oversized cell phone of some sort so he can be contacted by the work hands he hires to help maintain his properties.  The land he once bought for $45 an acre is now worth $7000 an acre, and the story of the how he sold some of the property for the first price to his brother to buy a shiny new car to impress the ladies of course ended in tragedy…. the super fine car lost it’s value after just a couple years and the girls in town moved on to liking the guys whop had newer cars… leaving Mr. Burkholder frustrated that he hadn’t held onto the land that had appreciated so much in value.

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Mr. Burkholder complained, and rightly so, about the unreasonableness of the City Council and all their absurd rules and regulations, which hurt farmers to no end.  For example, Mr. Burkholder cannot dig up or cut down a tree on his own property.  I believe they call it “injuring the land”, so he has to buy a permit and then get permission from the county to do such a thing.  Mr. Burkholder says he should be able to traumatize the soil on his own property any way he wishes, since it is his property, after all. Something about Constitutional property rights.   He also talked about the ridiculous property taxes he has to pay that makes it very difficult to carry on the business of farming.  

He also thinks its insane for the county to require him to have a paved road on his property if he wants access to the main road, when the county won’t pave a driveway to the main road, which the county owns.  A paved road would cost him $200,000, but the city councilmen couldn’t explain why they didn’t have to provide a paved road from the edge of his property to the county road, making it impossible for Mr. Burkholder to actually get to the main road.  Essentially, the county wanted him to build a concrete mote of road around his home almost to the road to comply with regulations…. while not having the access to the main road because the county doesn’t have to invest in a paved road because, well, they are the county and they can do what they want.  

Mr. Burkholder thinks every city council member should be required to have actually been a farmer at one time so they understand how much taxes are being paid and how ridiculous the regulations are.  But he’s not holding his breath that that will happen.

Oh, and it turns out that the odd contraption I’d originally noticed that brought me to Mr. Burkholder’s property is called a hay raker.  Apparently it’s the tool responsible for slicing and dicing hay into those big, large round bales of hay you see sitting in the middle of fields in the country.

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Long story short, I not only have an new connection in Long County, but I also have some interesting shots of rural Georgia farmland and an open invitation to come back whenever I want.  If I decided to do some portrait photography here and there, I certainly have some interesting options for backdrops now between the farmhouses, cows and chickens, and interesting farm equipment.