Get Back to Your Roots
Sometimes it just hits me how not normal the life I lead is. This past weekend I helped my friend Tim purchase and pick up his very first set of haying equipment. Tim lives on the outskirts of Louisville and grew up in the city with no real farming experience or background. He's been a frequent visitor to our farm over the years and was fortunate enough to be able to purchase 70 acres for himself near Louisville. He quickly set about adding chickens, turkeys, bees and cows to his farmstead.
Tim is the exception rather than the rule. For generations farmers have become an increasingly small percentage of the population. Society has become disconnected from the farm and, as a result, its food.
I work hard, but lets be real--I could not do what I am doing now without being born into the farm. The land, equipment and knowledge base was all there waiting for me. Selling feeds to other farms and selling meat direct to our customers may be something I've added to the farm, but neither would be possible without the head start I was lucky enough to have.
While I cannot give everyone the chance to be a farmer, I can share a glimpse of farm life with my customers through this blog and a social media presence. I can educate my customers about farming and their food. Outreach sounds like something that should be reserved for non-profits or community organizations, but agriculture outreach is important too.
Agriculture, as an industry, is very poor at self promotion. Most of the narrative surrounding agriculture is negative and driven by non-farmers. Often there is poor understanding of the issues or even an outright agenda against agriculture by those creating the content. The ag community is often tight knit and tight lipped. Rather than attempt to control the narrative and shed more light on what the industry is doing and why, they often turn inward, which only creates more speculation.
I will admit that there are instances, especially in industrial scale animal agriculture, where indefensible things have occurred. For the most part, these are isolated incidents and not the norm. Often a disgruntled employee or other outside factor is involved. (Fortunately I have no employees to be disgruntled I guess!) As a general rule, unhappy animals are unproductive animals. Most farmers, large scale and small, make a herculean effort to keep their animals healthy and happy.
To that end, I've tried to be transparent in whatever I am doing. I've had social media posts about sick cows that have subsequently died. When you have livestock long enough, you are going to have an animal get sick and you are going to have an animal die--It happens. Any time I am faced with a situation like that, which I hope is very infrequently, I provide the best care I can and involve a veterinarian if necessary. Often there is a full recovery, but sometimes there isn't.
It would be easy to gloss over those events and pretend like they don't exist, but it is part of it. I share my life with my customers. I share successes and failures. I keep it real, and when customers get a front row seat to farm life and their food production, they begin to have more understanding of what it takes to get food to their plate.
I encourage you as a consumer to take interest in where your food comes from and seek out information from farmers. I also encourage farmers share more about what we're doing. It doesn't take a blog post or crafted social media content to get your point across. Sometimes a seemingly trivial encounter in everyday life is all it takes.
Just last week I was delivering feed to a nearby neighbor and stopped by the dollar store with the tractor and feed mixer to grab a quick drink. When I exited the store, there was a small child and her mother looking at the tractor. "Is it ok if she takes a picture by the tire," the mother asked? "She's never seen a tractor this close."
I offered to let the little girl up in the cab. With a big smile, she climbed up. She honked the horn, started the tractor and turned the steering wheel while her mom took photos. "You've made her week," the mother exclaimed!
Is the little girl going to be a farmer? Likely not, but it cost me nothing but a little time.