Illinois Farm Families Blog

Feb 22 2012

File away the farm fallacies

I was standing at the Farm King checkout, waiting for my husband to pay for our Plan B attack on a mounding mole problem, when a farm magazine with colorful cauliflower on the cover persuaded me to pick it up. No grocery store tabloid tempts me to the point of touching, but I’m a sucker for anything about farms and gardening.

I started reading an editorial authored by a person who worked multiple jobs and finally found farming was his calling. I can relate to that. I kept reading. My husband was yet to pay. In fact, I took great interest in the author’s words until he started to belittle the corn and soybean farmer, in a tone that indicated that type of farming had no feeling. No pride. To the author it seemed mechanical and monotonous.

My hands immediately closed and racked the publication. I’m proud to grow those crops.

I walked in silence to the van, feeling bullied and angered, but unsure of what to say. I process my thoughts slowly. (Good thing I’m not a farm broadcaster.) I need to chew on topics a while before I can reach a conclusion. So a few days later I sat over a bowl of soup made from butternut squash from last year’s garden bounty, still aroused by the unnecessary jab. And thought this: Who started filing farmers in categories?

Truth is, I’ve witnessed this desire-to-file twice in a month. Someone asked a question about how a family farm is differentiated from an industrial farm. The question was posed online through Illinois Farm Families, a coalition that encourages farmers to start conversations with consumers. (Go to www.WatchUsGrow.org to learn more.)

My first response: What’s an industrial farm? That phrase isn’t part of farm vocabulary, but rather seems a term coined to negatively label modern-day agriculture. I get this feeling that people who don’t understand farms and farmers are trying to figure us out, which I applaud. Yet placement in a category with an associated stereotype only muddies that understanding like a gravel road in the thaw of March. You don’t want to go there.

Here’s my take. Farmers, generally, are the same at heart, no matter their farm’s size, use of technology, or choices in pest control, crops grown or livestock raised. For a long time I have thought farming was like parenthood. Farmers parent the land until someone else becomes the caretaker. Most people can relate to that. Moms generally can relate to other moms, even if they have different lifestyles, approaches to child care or viewpoints on education. Farmers can have different styles, too, often reflected in their production practices. But at sunset, most all enjoy relaxation after a hard day and share core values: concern about land, resources, livestock, crops, their families and the future of their farm. Whether they’re in the business of farm-fresh eggs or field corn doesn’t matter in my experience. Farmers are about as proud and passionate as humans come.

Joanie Stiers
At The Farm Gate

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