Tag Archives: educate

Good Intentions

Sometimes Agriculture Has Good Intentions…

The agriculture industry is full of good intentions in terms of lessening the rural/urban divide, well, at least we think we are. Ag hosts field days, ag in the classroom, ag literacy events, all in the name of education. Farmers and ranchers are urged to share their stories with their urban counterparts. We open our barn doors and ranch gates offering our non rural peers a glimpse into our way of life. But what does agriculture do to urge farmers and ranchers to learn about our urban counterparts? What does agriculture do to educate ourselves about our urban peers? How do we glimpse into their lives? Why isn’t an effort being made to make this a two way street?

Sure, agriculture talks about consumer demand and market trends but these are faceless entities, void of any personal connection. Just as the farmer or rancher in our urban peer’s mind might be from American Gothic or a John Wayne movie, a caricature of the real thing. When agriculture talks about “consumer” we aren’t picturing actual living and working people, we see a group that needs to be taught, needs to be educated.

Agriculture loves to claim our urban peers and counterparts are out of touch with us. But perhaps, agriculture being the minority (less than 2% of our populations works in production agriculture), we are out of touch with the majority? What if agriculture is so cloistered within our own culture we forget there is a much bigger world out there? Often the only time agriculturists travel is for industry events, to talk to other industry people about industry things. Living and working in the agricultural world can be very sheltered experience.

If agriculture truly wants to connect, if we truly want to share our way of life we need to realize it is a two way street. We are not entitled to demand everyone learn about us without offering to do the same, simply because we grow food, fuel and fiber for them. We need to see value in all work done to support the society we live in.

I believe it’s time agriculture seeks out an Urban Literacy week. It’s time we take the same responsibility we demand of our consumers; learn about their way of life, form an emotional connection. It’s time we treat our urban peers with the respect and attention we demand. Perhaps it’s time for us to be educated? I urge those of you in agriculture reading this, join me in being mindful of our urban counterparts? Ask them questions about their way of life, their struggles, their concerns. Be less interested in forcing your experiences on them. Work on connecting over issues we share, not what divides us.

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

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!

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Filed under Ag, food, Rants