Awhile ago I read about a dairy who suffered the horrible tragedy of having their barn collapse. The way the articles I’ve read on it explain that the weight of the snow plus a rainy day had disasterous consequences and their free stall barn containing 650 milking cows collapsed. Awful. I could not and do not want to imagine being in that horrid situation. By the grace of God, few cows were lost. While flipping thru the latest issue of Hoard’s Dairyman, a popular dairy industry magazine, I once again saw an article about this tragedy. The thing that caught my attention wasn’t the bulk of the story itself. It was three lines, printed in bold, in the middle of the page.
“The size of the farm, type of cows or method of farming is not significant. What matters is the farmers’ bond that forms in times of crisis.”-Marilyn Hershey
It was Mrs. Hershey and her husbands barn who came crashing down. Now I don’t know this farming family and highly doubt I ever will. The words that she used to describe that situation hit me. I, like most people in America, probably most of the world, have a Facebook account. My friends are mainly composed of high school friends, college friends and industry connections. However I have some people, some of them other farmers no less, who put down “conventional” farmers daily. This bothers me. Not only because I’m a “conventional” farmer with no thought what so ever of being organic, but because we farmers only make up a rough 2% of the American population. Now I don’t know about you, 2% is not a big number to me. That means 98% are consumers with no or little farming connection. That is a hefty amount of people who control the market. In my eyes, this means we should all be sticking together all the time, not just times of crisis. No bullying amongst ourselves.
There are many types of farming these days. Conventional, organic, natural, gmo-free, free range, etc. That makes my hands tired just typing the possibilities. Everyone has their own way they want to farm. Cool beans. But for goodness sake don’t condemn your neighboring farmer! We all work hard, we all have had years of plenty and years where it’s Hamburger Helper and Spaghetti-O’s for supper 7 nights a week. My husband and I have a joke when we go to a cattle auction, as we start to approach our spending limit we discuss how many upcoming nights we want to be dining on Hamburger Helper. He despises the stuff, so you know if he keeps bidding he really wants to own her.
I don’t mean for my blog to get preachy or to have it shove farming down your throat. I actually pondered for a while if I wanted to approach this topic. But my newsfeed has been filled with un-friendly things and I coincidentally saw the above article while multi-tasking with Facebook and reading. I don’t have much down time so I have to sneak in a bunch of things at once! I know people have written blogs, many blogs, about this subject before. I just wish it was something which was practiced more than it was preached.
Our farm itself has no interest in becoming any of the things listed above, besides maintaining our “conventional” practices. This means if our animals are sick and have an illness an anti-biotic will help we give it to them. We vaccinate, feed lots of the crops we grow (some are GMO) and do not pasture our cattle with the exception of bred heifers at our heifer growers and a dirt lot the older cows have access to in nice weather. However, I don’t see where the person raising natural animals down the road is doing a better or worse job than us. Their animals are well cared for, they are nice people and they sell very good products, which I regularly purchase. One of the products I ordered this month was a GMO-free Greek yogurt which a neighboring dairy produces themselves with their own milk. Now that is some cool stuff, processing your own milk. We also have friends with a dairy farm who are considering making the move to organic. The practice would fit in to their operation nicely and the extra premium that comes from being certified organic is always a plus. Now the point I’m getting at is we know, talk to and do business with all the types of farmers listed above. I have no problem with their production practices. I do not condemn them for not producing their products like we do.
When we start attacking each other we quickly lose the bond that Mrs. Hershey talked about in her article. I don’t understand the need to instill fear in to consumers to sell your product. Preach the good points, market the benefits. Don’t market something at another producers expense. People don’t realize the huge audience they reach on social media. It doesn’t take long for negative things to spread. For example I share a post about some practice I see as “negative” and my 350 friends see it. One of them shares it with their friends, BOOM there’s another 300 or 400 people. I also had no idea when I started this blog that people would be the slightest bit interested in what I was rambling about. My blog about sand had three readers in Australia and four in Canada. Talk about catching me by surprise!
If you want to eat local great! We ship to a local dairy about a half hour from our farm. If you want to eat organic great! Those farmers need consumers buying their food. Natural farmers, free range farmers and GMO-free producers need people consuming their products too. Us “conventional”, that word sounds so boring to me, need consumers buying our products. We should all be building each other up instead of being nit-picky about things that we either don’t understand or don’t agree with. When push comes to shove every farmer is doing the same thing, trying to provide food, clothing and fuel for the world. I really hope this didn’t come off as corny or preachy, I tried really hard not to! After proof reading it I feel like it should end with a YouTube clip of people singing Kumbaya and an apology for my rantings.