Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stop blaming me

Stop blaming me for people not knowing where food comes from

You see it flare it up on social media from time to time – the rhetoric within the ag advocacy groups that if producers had and would do a better job telling their story, sharing with the consumer their every move, explaining their practices, decisions, goals and dreams. If they would only write eloquent statements detailing every twinge of arthritic discomfort and the cause of that limp, there wouldn’t be the current disconnect between consumers and the land and people who raise and grow the food that fuels them.

And, as one of those people on the growing, raising and getting-my-hands-dirty-every-day end of food production, and also one of the many who try to share my agriculture story with the masses through a variety of opportunities, such a mindset bothers me. It bothers me because my experience from a very young age has been that agriculture – its people, practices, farms and ranches, have all stood with an open door to whomever had the genuine interest to learn about them. I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed a farmer or rancher tell someone to fly a kite when they asked a sincere question. In actuality, I have seen the people within agriculture embrace every opportunity to share their lifestyle, to hire and willingly pay someone as they teach them their craft, to step outside their comfort zone to speak with groups of strangers, or to invite those strangers into their field, corral or home.

Long before social media, laser fast technology and a worldwide readership could be obtained from any living room, these people were working not only at their lifelong occupation of raising food, but on sharing their knowledge. The issue is not a lack of information provided by the farmer and rancher, the issue is a lack of interest by the general public.

Yes, there is a huge and important brouhaha over everything from GMO’s and pesticide use to mom bloggers being our new bosses and organic versus conventional practices. Everyone has an opinion on these and countless other food related topics, which ultimately impact those who raise food. It’s critically important stuff. But, everyone forms their opinions with their stomachs full, thanks to American farmers and ranchers. Hunger hasn’t been an issue in our nation on a large scale since my grandmother’s generation. And, before reminding me of the many hungry people in our country – when government agents came through the west and killed all the cattle in an effort to improve the beef market, my great grandmother convinced them to leave one of her cows alive. She and her children then butchered it, harvested their home raised garden, and made canned stew that they then lived almost exclusively on for a year or more. Many others were less fortunate. That is facing hunger to a degree I, and I daresay most people in this day and age, struggle to even imagine in America.

Until that happens, bickering over a myriad of shallow food related topics is likely to continue. If and when true hunger faces our nation again, I’ll bet my last cow people will eat whatever they can to survive, without concern or griping. They will thank their lucky stars for GMO’s and drought tolerant seeds, and for the knowledge and skills found in the few who still farm and ranch.

In the meantime, the perception of food has been altered to the point it no longer mirrors the reality those in production agriculture know to be true. Add in the twisted few on the opposite end of the spectrum, who have a delusional view of agriculture as a house of monstrosities, who rain misinformation in a slew of sophisticated, attention grabbing outlets, and it gets messy fast.

Wasting your breathe discrediting the valid efforts of producers you then attempt to back and tout as being all that we really are does nothing for your, or our, creditability. No one blames Apple when they don’t immediately know how to navigate the latest Iphone. Rather, people generally expect to wade through some research followed by a period of trial and error, and perhaps call customer service or visit a store and talk with a human. They take the initiative to educate themselves in order to effectively use their device. Food should not be the exception to this mindset.

Rather than point a finger in the producer’s direction for not doing enough to educate the public, consider to what extent the public wants to be educated. Most want to be able to do the equivalent of the basic phone functions, a few want to know a few extra things, and minute handful want to know how their phone was built in addition to how to access and effectively utilize every function of it. Those people are taking the time to find those of us on the building side of food production; all we have to do is continue sharing our legacy of feeding them the best food anywhere on earth any way we can, just as we have been doing for generations.

So, share on in whatever way or ways you can. If you’re not farming or ranching yourself, or even if you are, give one of the people who made you love agriculture a call or stop by and see them. When you’re done visiting, take a moment to relish in the rejuvenated inspiration you feel, and share it. The feeling that person just instilled you, that is the purest and most effective form of advocating and sharing of a story and lifestyle you’ll ever find. No blame or Internet connection required.