Horse sense leads to common sense
By Trent Loos
I have known for a couple of years that Norco, Calif., (aka Horsetown USA) did exist but until I witnessed it for myself, I couldn’t believe all of what I had heard. For all practical purposes this is a suburb of Los Angeles, as it is only about 50 minutes from the third largest city in the nation. The anomaly of Norco being near one of the most urban places in the world is the fact that it is a rural environment right in the middle of a town of 26,000 residents. Lindsi, my 10-year-old, and I just spent four incredible days celebrating rural heritage with the amazing folks at Norco HorseWeek.
Norco has 122 miles of horse paths alongside every street instead of sidewalks. Most businesses have a hitching rail and water access for the livestock. You may attend church on Sunday morning without ever dismounting from your horse if you choose. By looking at this town from a satellite image, you may get the impression that all of the houses have horses right in their yards and that is nearly true although there are a few without.
The sounds of roosters crowing, dogs barking and a horse’s whinny are constant and it is such an oasis of relief from the normal hustle and bustle of city life. I even went to visit a friend, Todd Mansur, a cowboy who makes his living as a commercial fisherman in the Pacific Ocean. He not only has egg laying hens in his backyard but two 900-pound steers that will eventually feed his family and friends.
Don’t get me wrong, Norco still has the normal hang-ups of nosy neighbors who want to tell you how to feed your critters or the ones that want to outdo the Joneses, but it is truly unlike anything I have ever witnessed.
One aspect that I am going to try to get a better handle on in the upcoming weeks is that, as you might imagine, with a significant number of animals inside town and dirt paths on every street, the dust is prominent. While it is certainly not a nuisance, the reality is that there is dust. I am willing to bet you that the kids in Norco, Calif., are healthier than most and have fewer issues with asthma in this suburb much like all the farm kids who reap that rewards of living on a farm and breathing in a little animal manure.
Research says farmers typically breathe in a lot of dust consisting largely of dried manure, with all the bacteria that grow in it. According to New Scientist, “As strange as it sounds, epidemiologists are starting to uncover unexpected links between our exposure to dirt and germs, and our risk of cancer later in life.”
This publication argued that just as children who are exposed to germs from a young age are less likely to develop leukemia, adults who have a greater exposure to germs than usual might build up a greater resistance to bugs, and even cancer.
“Some researchers are starting to wonder whether the higher incidence of certain cancers in affluent populations—including breast cancer, lymphoma and melanoma—might also have something to do with sanitized, infection-free living,” the researchers said.
As I travel around the nation, I have jokingly said that the science suggests that if we had a CAFO inside the city limits of every town to provide a fresh blanket of manure for folks to inhale, the nation would be a healthier place. Obviously, this should not be just a joking matter as they are getting it done in Norco, Calif.
I hope that someday soon all Americans will have a better understanding of the human health benefits of “dirty living.” Particularly in this era where we seem to be headed toward socialized medicine as the norm instead of only something Hollywood dreams up. The very way of life chosen by the rural dwellers in the city of Norco could provide a bit of common-sense relief toward preventing everything from the common cold to possibly even cancer.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.