“Google educated”. It’s my new favorite term, and unfortunately, a very ugly truth. In fact this is part of the reason I started “agvocating”, the other reason was because of an ex of an ex, but that is a whole other blog post. I’ve lost count of how many times people who have never stepped foot on a farm, feedlot, or processing plant tell me how bad my industry is. They learned everything they need to know about beef production from youtube, google and twitter and there is no way in hell they can learn anything more about agriculture, especially from an actual rancher!
In college I would go from a beef production class where we were learning how innovative and technologically advanced our industry was (from a teacher that was both a PhD and a cattle producer) to a general education class, where they tried to teach me beef production was the same it was in the 1970’s (it’s not), from a teacher who saw a farm once from the road.
I understand there is a major disconnect between farm and fork. This disconnect has left the majority of our population vulnerable to misinformation about agriculture. The repercussions of this disconnect has resulted in movies like “Food Inc” and books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, these books and movies are often one-sided and skewed versions of what their creators consider modern agriculture.
Until I went to college and earned my degree in agriculture I held many of the same beliefs as people not in agriculture. I believed natural beef was better the environment, I thought organic was the only answer and Monsanto was the devil. It’s easy to understand why I believed that. Movies, books and articles written by those who have little to no understanding of modern agriculture often vilify what they don’t understand. It’s human nature to fear what we don’t know. Agriculture is not as simple or easy as it is made to look. I think all industries are like that, but for some reason many people think agriculture is the cowboy in the white cowboy hat versus the cowboy in the black cowboy hat or the small family farmer versus the giant corporate farmers, or good versus evil. It wasn’t until I went to college and learned the why’s, what’s, how’s and when’s of agriculture, that I was able to take a step back and say “gee, I really didn’t know shit about the big picture of ag just because I grew up on a ranch”.
I needed to be exposed to other points of view; I needed to learn WHY we do things. It was amazing to be educated from people who actually knew what they were talking about. I got a wonderful, hands on education that incorporated organics, GMO’s, “conventional” agriculture. I learned that many of these production methods can overlap each other; I learned how we can use the advanced technology and production methods available to make ag better!
So it really annoys me is when ranchers and farmers start fighting with each other over different production methods. For example, grass fed is better than grain fed (follow http://meatgeek.org/, I’ve learned so much), or organic is better than conventional. Or even worse when a farmer fear mongers, a neighbor of mine has a sign at their farmer’s market booth that reads “are there GMO’s in your food?” like it is going to kill you. RIGHT NOW. (Do a whisper of research at http://www.biofortified.org/)
I hate to say this, and it will probably get me in trouble with certain people, but I’m going to say it anyway. It seems like the “farmers” that are doing the attacking and fear mongering are the ones with limited agricultural experience and education. They are the ones that never got a formal agricultural education, they read some Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and Google and suddenly they know everything about agriculture and the only acceptable kind is organic, raw, sustainable, repurposed, heirloom, (insert more buzz words here).
Unfortunately these “Google farmers”, with their PhD’s from University of the Internet are often the ones with the loudest voices. They are the ones selling at the Farmer’s Markets, telling the consumer how they know everything because they agree with Mr. Pollan and Mr. Salatin, and commercial farmers are bad and are only out to make money and posion their land. They seem to only go to organic workshops, they often don’t belong to Cattlemen’s or Farm Bureau, they have no desire to learn more about “conventional”. It’s their way or no way. I am very resentful and bitter at these people. I’ll admit it. It’s hard for me to go to Farmer’s Markets and hear attacks on my way of life from people that only have half of the story. Yet another side of me understands why they think this way, I once did too.
It’s time for us all to educate each other and stop the fear mongering and shit talking. Google farmers you need to have an open mind. You need to learn WHY we do things and just because a particular faming method doesn’t work for you doesn’t make it evil. If you are going to “educate” the public about agriculture don’t you think you should know the full story? Scaring people about “conventional” agriculture isn’t doing anyone any favors. Passing more laws and regulations for farmers to follow only makes it harder for us grow your food, and makes our food more expensive. A good place to start would be to enforce the laws we already have. “Conventional” farmers you need to be more vocal! I know, it’s hard and you are busy, but we need to be transparent, we need to show our consumers that we are not out to kill them, that we do treat our animals humanely, we do use pesticides responsibly, that “Food Inc” is NOT the norm.
And consumers (farmers are consumers too, people forget that), you need turn Google off and get your hands dirty. Come on out to farms, read some Temple Grandin, if something upsets you or you don’t understand why farmers do something ask! Ask several farmers, make sure you are talking to farmers or ranchers that aren’t fear mongering and shit talking. I assure you that once you start learning about ag from ag it isn’t nearly as scary or evil as it seems.
The term “Google educated” is brought to you by http://edibleintelligence.blogspot.com/. He’s a food scientist, he knows shit, learn from him.