Wayne Baesemann has a three-word description for the approach the New Chester Dairy takes to its neighbors. It could be the company motto.
“Deny, Deny, Deny.”
Bring the managers a problem, and he says they can find an answer that has nothing to do with reality. Manure haulers running illegally on side roads? “Doesn’t happen.” Fumes that resemble the output from a sewer plant more than a dairy. “We’re not so bad.” Trucks rumbling non-stop dawn to dusk? “Others are worse.”
Baesemann is Grand Marsh area farrier who admits he should have been paying closer attention when he got word of Milk Source Holdings’ plans to build a massive Confined Animal Feeding Operation called the New Chester Dairy a half-mile from his house. But he works long hours and travels the state, and he had plenty of other things on his mind.
Now with hundreds of semis rolling past his house daily and a stench that’s bad enough to drive his family indoors on summer nights, it’s hard for him to think of anything else.
Looking back at the process that has destroyed both his neighborhood and his quality of his life, Baesemann says, “Am I the most involved in the community? No, but this was already passed and ready to go before the community really knew about it. There was nothing from our community itself that said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have this meeting. This is coming.’ We were hearing it hearsay, here and there, through the grapevine.”
If Baesemann knew then what he knows now, he would have been much more active. But timing is everything in politics, and he’s convinced that it’s too late to do anything today to make the factory a better neighbor. Talking certainly hasn’t helped.
“I went over to them about a year and a half ago and talked to the manager,” he recalled. “I just wanted to know if anybody was interested in buying our place. He said, ‘Why?’ And I said, “Because of you guys. Between the smell and the traffic all the time I don’t want to live here anymore.’ He said, ‘The potato trucks make more noise than we do,’ and I said, ‘No they don’t.’ And he said, ‘I’m just doing what I’m told.’ He’s told to pawn it off on somebody else. I haven’t heard from him since.
“I’ve been to a few meetings, and when I went and tried to talk to the guy about buying the place, it was deny, deny, deny. I went into one meeting, and one of the other residents in the area was asking why the semis were running down his road. The guy who I think is in charge over there said, ‘They’re not.’ Well, it’s a side road, and they’re not allowed to be on those roads, weight limit wise. But there it was, and the guy followed it right back to the dairy. He videotaped taped it, and he said, ‘I have it, and I can show it to you.’ And still he wouldn’t believe him.
“At the same meeting I said, ‘Is there a reason why these trucks have to be going 55, 65 miles an hour when they hit my house? They have to throw their air brakes on.’ He said they didn’t use those brakes, and I said BS. I’ve lived it, and I hear them. You can’t talk to them.”
Baesemann says people have told him he needs to be more aggressive in dealing with the factory, but he doubts that that would help. He’s a small problem for the people at Milk Source management, and they have a big agenda.
“I have a customer who says I have to be a pain in the butt, and they’ll buy me out to shut me up,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the area who have bitched and moaned. They don’t shut up, and it hasn’t gotten them anywhere. That’s not my personality. Do I want to? Yes.
“I get to a lot of places, and I talked to one dairy farmer down in the Watertown area. He told me he went to a dairy convention where the guy who owns Milk Source gave a speech where he said his main goal was to be the biggest milk producer. I can’t remember whether he said in the United States or the world, but that’s this guy’s personal goal.”
Baesemann’s goals aren’t quite so grand. He just wants a clean quiet place where he can live, operate his business and enjoy his summers. He had that once in Grand Marsh, but he lost it to the CAFO. And he understands that if it can happen to him, it can happen to thousands of others who face the danger of a factory farm invasion.
Like the New Chester public relations policy, his advice to them can also be summed up in three words. He tells them to be more involved than he was.
And then he says, “Fight, fight, fight.”