Activist farmer and his alpacas battle agribusiness

At protests, he stands out. Probably because he isn’t clutching a protest sign, but is instead holding a leash attached to two alpacas and a llama.

Ethan Abbot, who calls himself Ethan the Farmer, got plenty of attention when he showed up to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration with alpacas Shay and Tragically Cute, llama Thaddeus, and his dove Hubert.

“Most people are going to run from a protester,” Abbott said while sitting on a bale of hay at the Lancaster farm where he keeps his alpacas. “But I have a big fluffy friend, and people come up to me.”

Abbott, 40, aspires to plant the seeds of the ideas he’s long fought for: pro-locally grown foods, anti-GMOs, and anti-corporate agriculture.

“My goal is to get them to think. Turn off your TV, and get on the street,” he said. “We need to bring food back the way nature intended.”

Abbott has spent years fighting for these causes, and has lost a great deal in the process.

In Colorado, he helped organize the Denver March against Monsanto, as well as Get to Know Your Farmer initiatives at farmers’ markets, while supporting causes including Occupy Denver and a foreclosure resistance coalition.He also faced a flurry of troubles, some that he ascribed to government persecution, and others which may have been of his own making.

He said his farms were raided multiple times over his pastured poultry. But online police records indicate he was also being sought for non-payment of rent. In 2014, he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for smashing the car window of a woman who entered his property to tell him his calf broke out of its pasture. He claimed his head broke the window when she drove the car into him. Abbott said the case was dismissed, but the the Weld County D.A.’s office said a warrant is active in the case.

In the end, he lost his farms and his wife and kids.

Abbott wound up last year in his native Lancaster County, where he is trying to start over as an activist.But thoseplans may witheron the vine due to a lack of cash. Increasing pain from past injuries has hindered his ability to earn money to finance his work, he said. Supporters started an online fundraiser to help him pay for new licenses for his alpacas, but he still doesn’t know if he’ll be able to keep doing the work he envisioned.

But Abbott said he’ll keep fighting for what he believes in —nothing less than changing how the U.S. does agriculture.

“I can’t with a clear conscience let my kids grow up in what I see as a destroyed country,” he said. “Your body is not designed to process trash. When our government puts profits in front of people, we need to do something.”

Riding for justice

Abbott’s nonprofit, “Just Us Riders,” aims to spread his message to at least three people a day.

He saidthat what he calls the “fourth branch” of government — “We the people” —needs to “take back our farms, our families, our food and our freedom.”

“I ask people, ‘Do you like what you see going on in America today?'” Abbott said. “I’d say 99.99 percent of the people say, ‘Well, no.'”

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