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Garlic farmers battle wind turbines; Reluctant activists say they’re not ready to give up  

Anti-wind activists are like the modern rural Ontario equivalent of the Minutemen of 1700's Massachusetts, showing up with signs when Premier Kathleen Wynne travelled to Sarnia recently, and picketing outside of Health Minister Deb Matthews' garden party. "We go like this," Brooks said, snapping her fingers. "If we hear of a politician in the neighbourhood, we get a phone tree going, we get enough people and we move."

Credit:  By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer | Friday, June 28, 2013 | www.theobserver.ca ~~

Marcelle Brooks and Mike Mahood’s dream of a quiet, rural life in Lambton County quickly turned into a life-changing fight against wind energy companies and the Ontario government.

She grew up in Port Franks and works in an office, and he grew up in rural northern Alberta and works construction.

“We wanted to get back to the farm,” Mahood said.

When 102 acres on Ridge Road in Lambton Shores went up for auction five years ago, it was just what they were looking for.

About one-third of the land is woodlot and Mud Creek flows through the farm that sits on the quiet, tree-lined unpaved road.

“We love being here,” Brooks said.

They converted the farm to an organic operation where they grow mixed grains.

“It was a struggle for the first few years,” Mahood said.

“The land basically has to be taught how to grow again.”

They also began growing garlic for themselves, and planted more to sell to others. Growing, drying and processing a half acre or so of organic garlic is a lot of work, and most of it’s manual labour.

“But, it’s a lot of fun,” Mahood said.

“Now we go to the Stratford Garlic Festival every year and sell a bunch there, and have a great time.”

They also grow cherries, and added free range chickens to keep bugs down in the orchard.

A beekeeper pays them in honey for keeping his hives on the farm, and a friend who raises organic sheep has arranged to keep some of his herd on their pasture.

It has been a labour of love, but one that took an unsettling turn.

They moved in at the end of the summer of 2008 and in the following spring a notice showed up in the mailbox with information about the Jericho wind project, and the 92 turbines Florida-based Nextera Energy plans to build in Lambton Shores and Warwick Township.

“Oh man, I was sick,” Mahood said, adding he would never have bought the place had he known about the wind company’s plans.

It got worse.

The couple soon learned their dream farm sits where the Jericho wind farm meets up with Suncor Energy’s 46-turbine Cedar Point wind project.

They were living on the front lines of the wind war and quickly enlisted on the side of those opposing the Liberal government’s embrace of the wind turbine industry.

Brooks said they never thought of themselves as activists but joined up with neighbours to oppose the projects, eventually becoming part of the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group.

Brooks said she remembers an early meeting a neighbour arranged with the then Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP, Maria Van Bommel, and the reception she received from the Liberal politician she was just meeting for the first time.

“I was so nervous,” Brooks said. “I didn’t know how to do these protesting things.”

Brooks said she was respectful of the politician during the meeting, but said the MPP ignored her and her concerns.

Van Bommel eventually became a target of the wind action group, and one of several rural Liberal MPPs to lose their seats in the 2011 election.

Brooks and Mahood describe their experience in the last four years as “waking up” to the ways of government.

“Corporations own the government,” Mahood said. “Government creates laws and legislation to support corporations.”

And rural residents usually pay the price, he added.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s wind turbines in Ontario or the oil companies in Alberta, it’s the same damn formula.”

Brooks said, “We have been asleep as citizens for too long.”

What has kept the couple fighting are their worries about the potential health impacts of turbines, and other impacts wind farms could have the community surrounding their farm.

“We’re just hoping we can continue to live here,” Mahood said.

“We know a lot of people who have had to move away from their homes because of these things.”

If and when construction begins on the turbines planned for Lambton Shores, “there will be some tears,” he said.

“It’s going to be awful.”

New Premier Kathleen Wynne has been out mending fences in rural Ontario, and her government has been tinkering with its green energy policies, but Brooks and Mahood aren’t buying what Wynne has been selling.

“Her words are empty.” Brooks said.

“Her words are to appease urban voters who don’t know the details of what’s going on in rural Ontario.”

The government’s recent changes won’t stop the Nextera and Suncor projects, or thousands of other wind turbines already in the pipeline to be built in rural Ontario over the next couple of years, Brooks said.

“This whole thing is a farce,” Mahood said. “It’s corporate welfare.”

Brooks said they’ve found themselves in a challenging spot lately, balancing the time and energy needed to farm, work to pay for the farm and continue to fight the provincial government and the wind companies.

“The farming is an absolute joy,” she said. “It is the turbine fighting that is consuming our time.”

Anti-wind activists are like the modern rural Ontario equivalent of the Minutemen of 1700’s Massachusetts, showing up with signs when Premier Kathleen Wynne travelled to Sarnia recently, and picketing outside of Health Minister Deb Matthews’ garden party.

“We go like this,” Brooks said, snapping her fingers.

“If we hear of a politician in the neighbourhood, we get a phone tree going, we get enough people and we move.”

Brooks said she believes the anti-wind message has been gaining traction, and as tired as they may be, they’re not ready to give up fighting, or to start believing it’s too late to stop the government’s push to build turbines in rural communities like there’s.

“When you’re up against a plan that is so stupid, and full of holes,” Mahood said, “eventually, it’s going to sink. It’s just got to.”

Source:  By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer | Friday, June 28, 2013 | www.theobserver.ca

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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