We Are All in This Together Folks

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.

8 Comments

Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, food, Know a California Farmer, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

8 Responses to We Are All in This Together Folks

  1. Good first effort Meg. And I agree with you 🙂

  2. curiousfarmer

    Amen and well said! Look forward to hearing more from you.

  3. I highly enjoyed reading your blogpost, keep on writing such exciting stuff!

  4. I agree with much of what you wrote. I feel as a commercial farmer there are many things that can be learned from the organic producers.

    I support urban gardeners, there is unused land in many urban areas that can be used to help feed people. This also helps urban people have an appreciation of the work that is required to produce food.

    The bickering between various factions just confuses the consumer and they have less trust in all of agriculture.

  5. “It seems like every time I log on to twitter…” All the farmers who thought they’d every say this raise your hand! I’m being a bit presumptuous here but I think this a really interesting time for agriculture. Everything that you wrote above is obviously from the heart and to me, a conscientious consumer and chef, makes a hell of a lot of sense.

    My experience on twitter, which involves observing conversations between all parties with an interest in ag, is proving to me that there really is a war going on between parties who feel the answers are simple and the answer is “this is the way it should be.” I’m beginning to realize that “the way it should be” usually means, it should be this way because it serves my interests (either monetarily or power (politics)).

    Parties, politics, power–these things remind me of our country’s political system–republican & democrat. Seems silly to have to pick a side when as you say to ag “we are all in this together folks.” I know there’s a lot of conservative farmers out there and I also know that republican politicians were voting against extending internet service into rural areas of the US–whose side are they are on? We have a democratic president and lots of “foodie” democrats voted for him but his ag secretary is close to the “evil gmo emperor”, not a judgment per se, just saying, if we want this “utopia of perfect ag” then we must also think we can have a utopia of perfect politics–but there will always be different schools of thought in both.

    I learn more and more about ag everyday from listening to people in all areas of it. I can’t possibly comprehend how anyone can have all the perfect answers. It’s a big world, with a lot of mouths to feed (including my big one). Feeding people on a large scale tells me that we need large systems to do so and my hope is, that if there are problems with the system, methods that we are learning are not healthy for us, for the environment to the animals, that they will be fixed. I find it impractical and impossible to scrap it for another method.

    For me, I will continue to make choices based on my personal preferences, which are admittedly a luxury. That means, I hope to find a new “niche” farmer everywhere I look–that means more “flavors” in the style that I prefer. It’s easy for me to say both systems are necessary because I don’t have anything to lose, or gain and I’m not compelled to “choose a side.”

    My goal is simple–teach people about food, get them to cook at an early age, learn how to ID and handle raw products, introduce them to farms and growers and hope they will really begin to understand what they are buying and what they are eating.

    I know I’m an outsider but I hope my perspective is helpful (if not a bit simplistic) as an “educated” consumer and food industry professional.

  6. Hallelujah! It makes me think, Why can’t We All Just Get Along?

  7. Meg,

    You have some good thoughts here. I think what we in ag need to learn that there are a lot of folks who dont care whether we raise organic livestock or traditional. They don’t want either. Like I tell all my fellow cattlemen, I don’t think PETA really cares whether you have an NCBA or R-CALF bumper sticker on your truck. Learn to get a long!

  8. VERY well said! I also try to never put down another section of agriculture. We all DO need to help each other.

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