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Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds to host anti-government activist Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy is expected to visit Mansfield in the coming weeks.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds announced Thursday on Facebook that it would host the rancher and “land-rights” activist as part of the company’s annual Spring Planting Festival, planned for May 5 and 6.

Since 1997, Baker Creek has made its name selling seeds without any genetic modifications to farmers and gardeners in Missouri and across the country — along with charitable giving close to home and around the world.

Bundy is best known for a standoff at his Nevada ranch in 2014. Along with his sons and supporters, Bundy engaged in an armed confrontation with law enforcement over a dispute with the federal government dating back to 1993. Bundy refused to pay cattle-grazing fees required to use publicly-owned land near his ranch.

Bundy does not believe the federal government has any constitutional authority to own large tracts of land, or that federal courts have supremacy over Nevada courts. Federal judges have repeatedly ruled that these views have no legal standing.

Yet since the standoff, a federal case against Bundy and his sons was dropped by a federal judge, who ruled that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence. She chastised prosecutors, the USA TODAY Network reported, saying they acted recklessly and engaged in a “deliberate attempt to mislead and distort the truth.”

‘Gardening with minimal water’

Friday morning, Baker Creek’s media relations staffer Kathy McFarland said those issues aren’t why the seed company invited Bundy to its annual spring festival.

“I know the political stuff kind of gets in the way, but we’re all about gardening and particularly growing rare seeds,” McFarland said in a phone call Friday morning.

The focus of Bundy’s 1:30 p.m. talk on May 5 is to be dry farming methods. Bundy, McFarland said, has significant experience in growing ancient crookneck watermelons in desert conditions, along with cattle ranching. She said she does not expect Bundy’s “sovereign citizen” politics to come up unless someone asks about them during a Q-and-A session.

Started by company founder Jere Gettle about 19 years ago as a catalog-driven business, Baker Creek’s spring festival attracts about 10,000 garden and farming enthusiasts from 40 states, most of whom come from Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, McFarland said.

The company’s 2019 spring lineup includes 20 speakers who are expected to share knowledge about topics such as seed libraries, Thomas Jefferson’s garden and heirloom foods from Africa.

Presenting a diversity of topics and speakers is one of Baker Creek’s goals when it prepares for festivals, McFarland said. (The company also sponsors the National Heirloom Exposition each September in Santa Rosa, California.)

That Cliven Bundy visit to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds? It’s been canceled.

There are many monikers for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, each applied according to a different fault line amid the fractured state of American politics.

Regardless, the Nevada rancher won’t attend the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds annual Spring Planting Festival, slated for May 5 and 6 at the Baker Creek location near Mansfield.

Baker Creek and a Bundy family member confirmed the news midday Monday.

It took just a few days after Bundy’s scheduled appearance became public for pushback to prompt the cancellation.

Baker Creek announced Thursday that it would host Bundy — known for an armed standoff with law enforcement in 2014 over unpaid fees for cattle-grazing rights to publicly owned land — to speak about his experience growing ancient crookneck watermelons in desert climate conditions.

The Monday cancellation announcement was a mutual decision, both parties said.

“Cliven Bundy will not be appearing at our Spring Planting Festival next week,” said a statement posted to the Baker Creek Facebook page just before noon.

“After a long discussion, both Bundy and Baker Creek staff agree that his presence could cause a safety issue and other concerns for all participants.”

On a call from Emmett, Idaho, Ammon Bundy — one of Cliven Bundy’s sons — confirmed the news.

“People know that this organization basically has uninvited my father to speak because of political reasons,” he told the News-Leader. “You know, that will be known and seen. And I don’t blame them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame them, and my father certainly wants to make it easy and peaceful for them to have their event and succeed in whatever it is that they want to do.”

He added, “The facts and the truth will show clearly what really happened, and that is they invited my father for his knowledge and experience in being able to grow rare seeds in a desert climate using very little water and (he) wanted to share that knowledge, and for political reasons they uninvited him.”

Kathy McFarland, media relations staffer for Baker Creek, said that the company had learned that opponents of Bundy had concrete plans to protest the Spring Planting Festival near the festival site.

“That was actually our concern, yes,” she told the News-Leader midday Monday. “At first we thought (opposition to the announced Bundy visit) was just people talking on Facebook and so forth. But when it appeared to be an organized plan and threatening our vendors, we thought we have a responsibility to our festival-goers.”

McFarland noted there is one road providing in-and-out access to Baker Creek.

She told the News-Leader that Baker Creek had not been previously aware of Bundy’s 2014 comments regarding African Americans, which some, including Nevada Senator Dean Heller, regarded as “appalling and racist,” according to a Vox report.

During that year, Bundy held a news conference, telling reporters that he is not a racist, but that he wondered whether black folks had been better off as enslaved people than they are today, the USA TODAY Network reported. The comments provoked considerable backlash.

Bundy’s son defended his father Monday.

“I think he does not regret the comments,” Ammon Bundy said. “He regrets his lack of articulating it properly. My dad is not a racist man; he’s everything but a racist person. He loves people. He respects each individual. He does not look at them as any color or race or ethnicity. He truly is a man who loves and respects people and those closest around them. But I think he used words that he regrets using.”

Bundy added, “Mainly a lot because of his age and because of — he didn’t know there were better words that he was supposed to use and that were more politically correct. I think he does regret that.”

A page on the website of Baker Creek that advertised a lineup of 20 festival speakers as of Friday had been edited to remove references to speaker appearances by late Monday morning.