It seems like every time I log on to twitter I see people who all want the same thing: safe, sustainable food – fighting and bickering with each other. I think a lot of the fighting boils down to miss-education or not enough education about agriculture. We all want this utopia of perfection agriculture. The problem with that is there is no such thing. There is no one perfect ag method, application or niche that would work for the entire ag industry. The fact is, ag is far too varied. What works for my neighbors might not work for me. Agricultural in Central California is very different from agriculture in North Dakota.
Organic, natural, CAFO, grass fed, animal welfare approved, sustainably farmed, free-range, urban, tradition – these are all labels that we apply to farming. But what are these labels? What do they mean? Who gets to define them? Am I better farmer if I pay a third party to certify that I treat my animals with compassion or I don’t spray too many chemicals? Am I better than my neighbor because my land, financial situation, and marketing abilities enable me to sell my cattle as CAB candidates or as “natural”?
I’ve been called and accused of a lot things during my time on twitter. I’m an elitist, I’ve been brain washed by “big ag”, I am “big ag”, I’m a shill, I hate urban farmers, I stand for nothing, I spend my money on iphones, whiskey and video games instead of organic, sustainable food (which I actually grow – for a living). Some of the things I’m accused of simply make me scratch my head – why must we get so personal if we disagree?
My soapbox is simple. I think all types of agriculture are needed if we want to continue to feed ourselves. Now why that statement makes a certain population of people bloodthirsty I will never know. Yes – we will need the organic farmers, the urban farmers, the “traditional” farmers. But before that can happen we need to unite as farmers and ranchers. This “I’m organic so that makes me better than you” needs to stop. This “I’m grass fed so I’m better than your corn fed” needs to stop. Different types of ag work for different people. We need to remember that organic isn’t always better. Big isn’t necessarily bad, small doesn’t always mean good.
“Traditional”, organic, urban or backyard gardener – we all need to be able to speak civilly to each other. We need to be vocal about what and why we do what we do. Urban farmers need to reach out to “traditional” farmers before they attack them over books, movies or articles that may or may not be true. “Traditional” farmers need to reach out to urban farmers to explain our practices before we are attacked. We all need to truthfully educate our consumers about agriculture.
We are all in this together folks. Let’s act like it.