BERLIN — For three long years, farmer Alan Hudson and his wife were the defendants in the pollution lawsuit filed by the Waterkeeper Alliance. Hudson, who works his 100-year-old family farm in Berlin, said the impact on his family has been enormous and long-lasting.
“Most time in the morning, you get up and you know how to handle pretty much every situation thrown at you on the farm. Something like that.it’s like they pull the rug out from right underneath you, because you don’t know which way to turn.”
“When it all first started, we felt as if we were vilified, because everybody just assumed that these groups who accuse you of these things are telling the truth,” said Hudson. “And they’re really not, because they have a deeper purpose for doing things. They’ll say anything or do anything they want to make their point come out.”
“Automatically from day one, we were the worst people in the world,” Hudson continued. “We felt very vilified, and, I don’t know, embarrassed, I guess. Everybody assumed we were guilty before anything had ever been heard.”
“We tried to keep it away from the kids, but they hear things in school and all that. Our daughter, we had to end up taking her to a counselor because she worried that we were going to lose the farm and she wouldn’t have any place to stay, no place to live. At the time she was six, and she didn’t need to worry about that.”
“The first year and a half, we struggled pretty hard (with legal bills). Every bill that would come, there was obviously no way in a long time that you could pay. Once Save Farm Families started and everybody started having fundraisers, they have helped us immensely. I don’t know if (the bills) are quite paid in full yet, but the majority has been paid.”
Hudson said the verdict affects how he runs his farm on a daily basis. “You second-guess what you’re doing,” Hudson said. “Normally, you make a decision and that’s what you do. Now there’s somebody looking over your shoulder. You just don’t get up and go to work. You scrutinize every decision you make.”
“Farmers are more regulated than most people have any idea,” he said. Hudson said he keeps up with regulations through newsletters from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, among others. “You try to keep up as best you can with what information you have available to you.”
Presently, the Hudson farm is doing “okay. It’s been a rough three years, but I can’t thank everybody enough for the support. I’ve had people from all over the county – Texas, Arkansas, California. Through all of this, I’ve met a lot of nice people.”
“When you lose your hope in people, it really lets you know that there’s a lot of nice people out there. Local and everywhere else. All the fundraisers, some of these people I knew. The fundraisers on the upper shore, there’s a lot of nice people I didn’t know before that I know now. I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Things, however, are not back to normal on the Hudson farm. “No, not by a long shot,” he said. “It will be a long time before things are back to normal. Anytime you have airplanes flying over and cars riding by, well, no offense, but you get tired of seeing your name in the newspaper.”
“In the beginning, in the first six months or a year, they all just assumed we were guilty. And that really hurt. There are two sides to every story.”
“This has really drove a wedge between farmers and environmentalists, because you’re leery. This isn’t the way to reach their goal,” Hudson said.