My Own Worst Enemy

Sometimes agriculture is agriculture’s worst enemy. I know we don’t mean to be, but it happens. This fact was brought to my attention yesterday, in a very unfortunate way. One of my facebook friends posted a video on their profile. This video (produced by a major New York financial paper) showed two methods of cattle production, grass-fed and “traditional”. It portrayed the grass-fed producer in a wonderful light, I mean, he might as well of had a halo over his head and an angel choir singing behind him. The traditional cattle producer was made out to seem “hickish” and un-educated. Basically the video bashed one segment of cattle production while promoting another, without giving any real facts, details or differing points of view.

When I asked this person why they posted this video, it didn’t go well. When I suggested that maybe this video was poorly done and lacked basic details about modern cattle production and offered a tour of my Ranch by me (an 6th generation cattle rancher with an advanced degree in agriculture who has worked on cattle ranches her whole life). I was told by this person that they grew up on a farm and their Dad taught them all they needed to know about cattle production, so they were good on their information. A little background on this person, they did not finish college, they did not major in agriculture, I’ve never seen them at any of the ag workshops in the area, they don’t raise cattle commercially, and they don’t even eat beef. Now, when someone claims they are from or grew up on a farm or ranch, I expect them to know, at the very least, basic modern ag practices. I firmly believe if you are going to represent yourself as having knowledge of a subject, you should have some actual knowledge.

Our discussion was your basic “only organic” agriculture is beneficial, sustainable, and healthy. Feeding cattle anything but grass “is not natural” (we all know corn is a member of the grass family right? And we DON’T feed cattle straight corn, right?). I’ll spare you the messy details, but it really wasn’t pretty. However, it was apparent that this person did not understand modern cattle production in the least. By the end of it I was accused of being brainwashed, abusing my animals, and pumping my animals full of drugs. As my readers know, it really pisses me off when people who have never seen my ranch or my animals accuse me of abuse. That is pretty much the worst thing a person can say to a Rancher. It’d be equivalent to me saying you abuse your kids because I don’t agree with your parenting style (and I don’t even have kids).

It’s puzzling to me why someone who claims to have an agriculture background would ever not want to look for ways to improve sustainability, the health of their cattle, or even learn more about this industry. Any reasonable person knows education is a good thing. Experience is a good thing. I want the people in charge of growing and raising my food to have the best tools and knowledge they can have. I want them to be as efficient and sustainable as they can be. I want the animals that I will eat to be treated with respect, dignity and to have the most enriched lives they can. All of this translates into a safe, nutritious and high quality food supply.

Like everything, the technology and ag practices we use are always changing. In my experience, the best farms and ranches incorporate many different types of production methods into their operation. For example our ranch uses “traditional” ag practices, some “organic” practices and some “natural” ag practices. By not pigeonholing ourselves we can do so much more with our land and cattle enabling us to not only survive, but thrive.

I think it is so important to always look for ways to improve what we are doing, and how we are doing it, in agriculture. We need to share that information with our consumers and other producers. As farmers and ranchers we need to always be learning, always evolving – we should never say “we already know enough”. We should never attack or bash farmers or ranchers that do things differently, every operation is different, and that isn’t bad. There are always going to be bad apples, every industry has them, but hopefully they will remain the few, and the rest of us can keep learning, changing and evolving for the greater good of agriculture. Never stop learning!

8 Comments

Filed under Ag, food, Rants

8 Responses to My Own Worst Enemy

  1. Excellent article! It’s pretty messed up that someone will form and opinion and stick with it, even when been given the chance to be educated from the other perspective. Shouldn’t you view BOTH sides of an argument before forming an opinion?

    I have never once heard you preach, dictate, or try to force what you believe onto anyone (unlike some people out there). I’ve never heard you try to instill fear or guilt into someone for not following your methods (unlike some people out there).

    What impresses me about you and this blog is that you try to educate people, you try to tell them how to find the information they need, you let them form their own opinions.

    It’s sad that some people won’t go to the effort to gain a little bit of knowledge, but as was said “There are none so blind as those who refuse to see…”.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    Ian H. Moore

  2. Megan…thank you so very much for putting into words the frustrations and obstacles we ( ranchers) face daily. Perhaps it is the “divide and conquer” theory that is so annoying. If your operation has been able to make it through just one generation this is a huge accomplishment..let alone numerous generations..Being caretakers of the land and animals is a serious, full time job, which as you stated is ever changing..perhaps that is the beauty of it. No two days are the same. So even though we are faced with drought, huge fee increases, increasing regulations in every aspect of the business, what we do have is Peace..those clear moments when it all makes perfect sense…that this is what life is all about. Thanks Megan..I am such a fan!!

  3. My thoughts exactly. One production method is not better than another. And we need to always be looking for ways to improve. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh, this is so true. When I worked with farmers in the Blue Ridge mountains, I focused on working with the “large scale” conventional farmers. Due to the topography there, that often meant 50-150 acres. I get so frustrated with ill educated organic consumers with no concept of the lives or farming methods of so many good farm families like yours. Farmers are such an infinitesimal percentage of the population, and it is so frustrating to see them tearing each other apart. I could go on, and on- but suffice it to say I love this piece. -kate

  5. Well said! It takes all sizes and types of production to set the table. That’s what food choices are for.

  6. Caryl Velisek

    My husband and I were big city kids. We got into the Angus business in our early 20s and spent more than half a century with beef cattle. He managed some of the good herds in the east and also a 3,000 head feedlot 40 miles from Washington, D.C., while we had our own small herd and raised a family. I have been a journalist with an agricultural publication for more than 30 years. I am an AG ADVOCATE. Niche markets are great but I hate to see someone putting down others who do things differently than they do, i.e. pasture raised vs. grain fed, etc. We are all in this together and can promote our methods without putting down others. There is such a tremendous disconnect between producers and consumers we need to do all we can to change that. We need to promote American agriculture, not hurt people in the business who don’t do things the way we do.

  7. I agree misinformation is frustrating and there seems to be so much of it out there. All we can do is keep being vocal and sharing our stories; people who really care will seek out the real stories and we need to be easy to find.

  8. I really appreciate everyone’s coments and hope we can continue to promote our industry through social media or any other venue.
    One of my favorite sayings is “never argue with an idiot, there will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience”
    As we fight to present our side keep that in mind. All we can accomplish with these disciples for whatever cause is to plant a seed do hopefully they will look into the points we make at some point in the future. Hopefully, someone on the fence will be encourage to seek the truth.

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