So we had a meet-up this past weekend with some of the farm moms downtown, and I had a blast! Once again I was reminded of how lucky I am to be a field mom. :o)
For some reason, almost all of my conversations that night centered around pork. The pigs themselves, the process of farming them, stuff like that. At one point Chris Gould, a farmer who operates just about 50 miles outside of the big city, was telling our table about a trip he took a while back. During his travels he wound up at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota.
My ears definitely perked up when he mentioned that, because just earlier in the week I had read this article, about a high incidence of an autoimmune disorder among certain workers at the plant, and how Hormel has reacted. Now obviously that article focuses a lot on labor and immigration issues, but things like: “…And then there was the sound of sizzling electric prods, the clatter of cloven hooves on metal grating, and the guttural, almost human, screeching of hogs” were what stood out to me. I’m an animal lover, so stuff like that gets under my skin, and makes me question my decision to fry up a pound of bacon and serve BLTs for dinner.
So Chris mentioned going to Austin, I embarrassed myself and yelled out “the Spam plant!” (as if everyone else at the table had read the article too), and he continued to tell us about his experience. Unlike Ted Genoways, the author of the article, Chris did get to venture inside the plant.
He told us the butchering process was calm. Quiet. That the pigs are loaded off of the trucks and put in a pen to relax before they’re slaughtered (I’m sorry, but I can’t think of a more PC word for that…).
Hmm. So here’s the thing – while “calm” and “quiet” are totally relative terms, and probably mean something a little different to a pig farmer than they do to someone like me who works in an office all day, the contrast between what Chris described and what Genoways described is huge.
And THIS is why I applied to be a field mom. Because I want to get closer to the truth. Not the media version, not the PETA version, not even the Hormel-spun version – I want to sit down with the farmers themselves and hear what they have to say. Chris didn’t know what I’d read earlier in the week. He didn’t know that the vision of ”…the guttural, almost human, screeching of hogs…” was still lingering in my mind. He was just a guy, telling a table of ladies about a trip he took. I think that’s about as close to the unspun truth as this suburban mom is going to get, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to hear it firsthand.
Elk Grove Village, Illinois
Originally posted by Betsie on her personal blog at Super Suburbs.
What awaited me next was an amazing learnathon:
Stay tuned as I learn and share more about the anything-but-slow-paced farm life.
This is not a big secret amongst my friends and family, but I love, love, love the city. Yes, I realize I am a farm wife and will probably be one until the end of my days, but hidden just below the surface of dirt on my vehicle thanks to my country road is a girl who craves the lights of the city; its hectic pace; and, of course, the shopping.
So when I was asked to attend another Moms Meet-Up in Chicago this past weekend, I jumped, strike that LEAPT, at the chance! Even better, the event fell upon a weekend where we were neither harvesting nor calving, so my husband could come, too, and did I mention 3 of my four kids were with one grandma, and my parents were in the city as well, so babysitting was available for our baby, too?
Anyway, I am really excited and passionate about this relationship we are forging between farmers and consumers, and after our first Moms Meet-Up this summer, I have been talking about being a part of this again if the opportunity arose. I came home from my first Moms Meet Up feeling like I could spread the story of my life on the farm to the entire world. Through good, meaty discussions along with aha! moments (both from the city and farm moms), excellent connections were made, and I was pumped.
So, as I readied myself (most importantly with a good outfit!) for this event just this past Sunday, my expectations were sky-high. However, as I watched the moms trickle in, counting the heads of the city moms in attendance, and realizing it was less than before, I was initially disappointed. I am passionate about this plight. I am ready to tell my story. As a mom, I can relate to the Field Moms because we all want to care for our children the best we can. However, when it comes to food, in this world of sometimes information overload, how do you know what is the right or true information? I truly believe that this relationship between the Field Moms and the farmers is an awesome way to close this disconnect.
That is what happened on Sunday. In the midst of this big, beautiful city, we farmers- who are generally more comfortable in tractor cabs than taxi cabs- sat down with the city moms, engaging in easy conversation about our lives, our livelihood, something we are so passionate about. This meet up allowed the city moms to not only hear the perspectives from one or two farm families, but farmers who not only raise corn and soybeans, but cattle, dairy cows, and hogs. We farmers were able to better explain ourselves and demonstrate the similarities between our farms, similar fears and concerns, and even demonstrate how alike we all are, even if we raise different animals and crops hundreds of miles from each other.
It was fascinating. This opportunity on Sunday truly showed that whether it’s farmer to farmer or city mom to farmer, we are all the same. We are all out here trying to care for our families as best as we can. Whether our commute to work is by train or taxi or dualie pick up truck, we’re all a bunch of folks hoping to do right in the world, whether its raising kids in the city or crops in the country.
I love being a part of these Mom Meet-Ups. I love sharing my story because there are times I can’t believe that I’m living where I do! I hope to keep telling my story to all who will listen, and hope that I can keep coming up to the city to enjoy all that it has to offer!
Emily Webel is a farmer’s wife, mother of four, runner, former teacher, and author of the blog, Confessions of a Farm Wife. She lives in Farmington, Illinois.