Last night I had the chance to connect with Bret, from Bret’s Table; Taylor, from Greens & Chocolate; Anna, from Garnish with Lemon; and Dr Laura Dalquist from the Swine Vet Center. Our roundtable discussion was moderated by Leah Beyer, who I was excited to finally meet in real life. The conversation was so good, that I had no problems with my 2 1/2 hour drive home from Bloomington. I arrived home just before the stroke of midnight, yet couldn’t fall asleep for a couple more hours. As I was going through different parts of our conversation (which you’ll hear more about later), this quote kept running through my mind…
People are getting testy. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe I’m just letting it get to me a little more. I’m not sure.
This past week, the new Farm Bill was finally passed by both the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by President Obama. Many in agriculture are breathing a sigh of relief…and many are whining and venting on social media. The Farm Bill is not perfect. There are areas where we still need to work with our elected officials to make changes as stand alone legislation. The key is, we need to WORK WITH our elected officials. Calling them names, shaming them on social media, and calling their offices in moments of anger is NOT working with them.
When kids at school were giving me a bad time, my mom used to tell me to kill them with kindness. There are even references in the Bible that talk about being kind to your enemies. Sweet words soothe crying babies, help comfort broken hearts, and bring calming to those who may be acting out in frustration. I have seen it work many times. I have also seen people shrink away and become defensive when angry words are hurled at them. The power of words is amazing.
I may not agree with, or even really like some of my elected officials, but if I want to have a working relationship with them, I must treat them with kindness and respect. That includes communications with them on social media, in emails, or in person. I truly believe that burning bridges is one of the worst things I can do as an advocate for agriculture. Badgering public officials on something I don’t agree with is not going to make them jump to my aid if I need them to side with me on another issue.
The same could be said for belittling those who may not agree with your farming style, or your food choices. If we want our consumers to know that we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world, why are we constantly fighting between ourselves in public? We are our own worst enemies. We spend so much time accusing the “other side” of using junk science, or emotion to justify their opinions, that we have failed to show just how good our farms are. We have failed to show the reasons why we raise our animals the way we do. We have failed to show how many families are out working every day so we all have plenty to eat. Just think of how awesome it would be if we stood up for one another, or promoted agriculture as a whole. Chipotle and Panera’s ad campaigns wouldn’t have a (chicken) leg to stand on. Let’s not burn bridges between farmers. Farmers that need to come together to make changes in immigration reform, or mCOOL, or township ordinances…
The quote that I put on the photo below fit so well with how I was feeling this week watching my social media feeds. Instead of being frustrated or angry, I am going to focus on being kind. Maybe, just maybe, it will catch on! Want to join me?
We all read comments about how farming should be as it was in “grandpa’s” day. We need to look a certain way, or raise a variety of animals in order to be a “real family farm”. They want us all to look the same…like Pringles.
I don’t know about you, but I think that is boring! I also think it is rather foolish to insist that all farms look the same, and grow or raise the same things. My farm in Minnesota is not able to grow oranges or grapefruit. Nor are we able to raise onions or cabbage in January. On the other hand, farms in southern Texas are not able to grow field corn like we can. Climate, soil types, and rainfall are all things that affect how well certain plants are able to grow in an area.
I like to think that American agriculture is a lot like a bag of potato chips…
When you open a bag of potato chips, there are all different sizes and shapes. The same holds true for American farms and ranches. If you look closely at the bowl of chips, you will see some that are large, some small, and some that are unique. Even though they are very different, they all taste the same. They are, after all, basically the same thing. Original flavor potato chips.
If you look at these chips as farms, there are all different sizes and shapes of farms. Some are large, some are small, and some are unique. If you put all these farmers in a room (bowl) together, you have a bunch of farmers who are farming for basically the same reasons – they love the land, they love their animals, and they want to take care of both so that they are able to pass their farm or ranch on to the next generation.
When you cruise down the snack aisle of the grocery store, there are a lot of choices between flavors, cooking method, potato type, and brand. We can look at those as being different types of farms. There are dairy farms, vegetable farms, livestock farms, crop farms…you get the idea.
I asked each member of my family what their favorite flavor of potato chip was, and they were all different. I’m pretty sure that differences in opinion within a family on how to do things on a farm or ranch is not that uncommon, either.
This may seem overly simplistic to some, but I hope you get the idea. We need the diversity in agriculture in order for us to have the opportunity to eat a well balanced diet. A well balanced diet meaning a variety of foods eaten in moderation, not meaning a potato chip in each hand. We need the diversity in size, in management style, in location, and we need both vegetation (crops), and animals to make our food system work as a whole. There is no one right way to farm or ranch. That should be an individual decision made by the farmers and ranchers who are on their land and tending to their animals every day.
Suddenly, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go eat a Pringle. I just won’t be one!