Where food, farming and bombs collide
When they’re planting their crops, farmers in this area must always keep an eye out for unexploded bombs.
Their lands were once battlefields and the dangerous remnants of those conflicts are still a threat today, decades after the end of hostilities.
Now any number of war-torn corners of the world may come to mind as you read these words but the truth may surprise you.
The farmers I’m talking about farm in Belgium, in the fabled Flanders Fields made famous by the poem of the same name written by Canadian doctor John McCrae during World War I.
During my recent visit to Belgium as part of the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ) congress, I had the chance to talk with a farm couple over lunch one day about this very subject.
The farmer told us that when he was growing up on his family farm in Flanders, there was a one acre plot that was never touched.
Finally one year, his father decided to plow it – after all, an acre of land holds a bit more importance to a farm in a country as small as Belgium than it would here in much larger Canada.
They turned up over 80 bombs in that small area, so they decided then and there not to touch it again.
The photo that accompanies this post is one we took near one of the WWI cemeteries we visited.
The bomb had been turned up during work in an adjacent field only a few days before.
It’s incredible to fathom that even though World War I ended 92 years ago, its effects are still being felt today.
Note: My participation in IFAJ 2010 was partially supported by the IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders Award.