I’ve got something on my mind…something I really need to share with you.
It’s a confession of sorts…something that makes me feel more than a little embarrassed. …and some of you aren’t going to like me anymore. Some for what I was...and probably more what I have become.
You see…I used to be an “Ag Snob”…or maybe it was a “Food Snob”.
The term doesn’t really matter…
I looked down on those who went about their work of feeding the world…just because they did it in ways I didn’t understand. I honestly thought THE ENTIRE WORLD could be fed organically, with no other options. (and my understanding of farming methods was way off base) Small Ag. was definitely best! ..."the only way"! While I never said bad things (out loud) about the “conventional farmers” of Big Ag., I just knew that their way of doing things was wrong (because, of course…MY way was right). And, yes, I was even heard to mutter against that “Archer-Daniels Midland, extruded, amalgamated blah, blah, blah…”.
Then, one day something changed.
It occurred to me that maybe things weren’t quite as black/white or good vs. evil as I thought. The whole debate over food production wasn’t quite as cut and dried as I had heard. No one type of farming was superior to the others. They were just different.
Some years ago, I realized that…This world needs all sorts of agriculture.
I don’t know exactly when it happened.
Maybe it was experiencing firsthand what is involved in getting crops to Market. Farmers (of any type) don’t work hand-in-hand with nature…it’s more like hand-to-hand combat sometimes. Pests do not stay away just because you have healthy crops. Crop rotation doesn't assure success. You can’t just ask insects and disease to get off your farm, not even if you do it nicely.
Maybe it was the feeling of helplessness when we had multiple lambs die one season long ago…because I thought that internal parasites weren’t a “real big deal” and could be addressed in a traditional, completely herbal way. I honestly thought that my shepherd friends were exaggerating when they said "the thing sheep do best is die." By the time we understood the problem, it was too late.
Maybe it was watching my husband struggle with an illness that I’m fairly certain came from under-cooked, never medicated, “natural” homegrown (somewhat undercooked) pork. Trichonellosis is very real and while not always deadly, it IS debilitating and recovery takes a LONG time! Modern farming methods keep it from being an issue for most folks.
Maybe it was the countless times the vet had to come to get us through another episode of milk fever with our “alternative ag” cows… Once we changed feed rations and learned about calcium and nutrition, we finally beat the problem…and earned the “old school” vet’s respect. Oh, and had healthy, productive cows!
Maybe it was talking with other growers about handling issues in different manners. We have learned an enormous amount over the years…most of it the hard way, too.
Maybe it was visiting a “conventional” dairy…and seeing the care and concern the dairyman had for his “girls”. While he would never admit it, those cows had names, yes…they did!
Maybe it was seeing “behind the veil” of alternative ag. Honestly, there are some bad farmers out there no matter what their practice.
Maybe it was finally putting a FACE on those folks I’d only heard about. Farmers, of all sorts, are REAL people that are doing the best job they can with the resources at their disposal.
Maybe it was actually researching things for myself that I had only heard others’ opinions about in the past. Over the years, we have learned a great deal from all sorts of farmers. For that matter, all sorts of people.
There are so many issues that affect our food supply that completely escape the average consumer.
I stand in awe of those large growers that provide a safe, secure and AFFORDABLE source for all the rest of us. But, at the same time, I am proud of the work we do and the products we provide from our little homestead here on the hill. We also work hard and provide an excellent product line. Know what? There is room for everyone....and absolutely NO need for fear-mongering and bashing.
Many of the things that work on a small operation cannot be applied to a large farm. That doesn’t make the large farms wrong in their practices. Large farms have the benefit of specialized equipment and programs that are not available to the “little guys”. This should NOT negate the efforts of the small farm and farmer. There is a place for each and every person who feels that urge to coax food from the land. While it’s not the same place…that’s okay. Variety is the spice of life.
So while the rhetoric from the “food police” gets a little more shrill with each passing day…and the debate and discussion grows heated between foodies and farmers, I’d like to interject something.
Let’s all just take a deep breath and try to be civil here. Let’s listen with an open-mind and respond with a caring heart. There are far too many folks in this world (many of whom do not have a reliable food source) for a few of us to make broad and sweeping assumptions and demand “food justice” by our own definitions. (particularly when we have food in our bellies and a comfortable home)
Personally, I am thankful for each and every person who is involved with getting food to my table. Far beyond the farmers/ranchers and their employees…you have truck drivers and warehouse dudes and the cashiers at the grocery stores…and lots of folks in between.
An old proverb says: "When there is food, there are many problems; when there is no food, there is only one problem."
As long as food seems plentiful, the various factions can debate and discuss various options and defame one another. The fact remains that every single person on this planet needs to eat…on a regular basis…and we should never take that privilege for granted. Nor should we attempt to dictate anyone else's food choices or production practices.
I know I don’t…not anymore!
Here’s a THANK YOU to all those folks involved in some aspect of AGRICULTURE.... that make it possible for me to put food on our table every single day…
...from the folks who raise the seed that other farmers use to grow the grain that feeds our animals, to those workers who process the poultry litter into the organic fertilizer that makes our crops grow so well. The seed farmers, the hay farmers, the truck drivers, stockboys (and girls) the people who fill our orders, answer our questions, mill our grain, and provide us with the products we need to do our work.
I could never include everyone who makes it possible for us to eat well, have clothing, and make our living doing something we love.
I truly appreciate the effort each of you puts forth on a daily basis.
‘Cause we’re all connected here…all a part of a very complicated whole...and I apologize for ever looking down on and/or questioning any practices that I just didn’t understand.
If you want to know more about food production and handling, I would like to help you answer your questions. If I don't have personal experience or know the exact answer...I know people who do. I’ll be glad to help you find the information you need.
Originally posted September 17, 2013 on Homestead Hill Farm.
Reposted with permission.
Barbara is both a farmer and a farmer's wife. She and her husband make their living off a little piece of God's creation in Middlebrook, Virginia. Follow her blog at Homestead Hill Farm.