Year of the Turbines, Part One
by Eric Nixon, Hayter-Walden Publications
This is a story about one woman and her family. Average people, like most of us. It’s about how their happy, rural lives changed dramatically beginning a few short years ago. About how they were transformed from contented farmers into faceless people who feel trapped in their own lives. It’s a story of what happened when wind turbines changed everything. And it’s a story about how people’s lives in our communities are about to change, too, with the proposed installation of up to 400 turbines right in our own backyard.
Monica Elmes lives in Chatham-Kent, about an hour or so south of here. She and her husband Neil have owned a small cash crop farm just south of Ridgetown for the past 17 years. She’s an intelligent person who studied Science and Agriculture and worked as a research technician for the University of Guelph and Ridgetown College. Slightly more than a decade ago, she and Neil decided to have a child and she’s been a stay-at-home mom ever since.
Until a few years ago, she described her life on the farm as ‘fabulous.’ “We bought our property and farm here planning to never leave, have done extensive renovations and everything we can with the view that this was where we were going to live and die forever – and absolutely loved this place,” she says.
As a farmer, she and Neil have always been concerned about the environment. “I’m really an environmentally conscious person. Everything we do on our farm – we have our environmental farm plan. Everything we do in our home – we’ve always thought about those consequences to the environment,” she says.
That’s what got her excited about the idea of wind turbines in the first place. About six years ago, there was a lot of talk in her community through the grapevine about people wanting to lease to wind companies – and the couple were definitely interested. At the time, crop prices were really bad and they were intrigued when a group of local residents approached them: “They thought if, as neighbours, we could get together and form sort of a group to approach the company, it would be beneficial for everyone to have that sort of power position, kind of a cooperative, community thing,” she says. “A lot of people – ourselves, as well – we thought this would be a good thing for the environment – and an opportunity to make money at the same time.” Read the rest of this entry