For years, I’ve been asking you to reach out to your non-farm friends and neighbors to help them have a better understanding of not only what you do, but why you do what you do on your farm. Although many have embraced this concept, others are uncomfortable with it.
One of the reasons many people fail to reach out to communicate with or educate the non-farm community is fear of confrontation or conflict. I say “Bring it on!” Until there is dialogue and tough questions are asked, how can there be resolution to any disagreement or understanding of any situation? I believe that most farmers are better stewards of the land and of their livestock than their detractors would have you believe. I believe that most farmers look at their practices to see that they benefit not only their own bank accounts, but their community and natural environment as well. How can we expect those who are “against us” to be “for us” or at least understand us, if we fail to show them how we raise livestock and grow crops?
The old saying goes, “You don’t understand my situation until you have walked a mile in my shoes.” Until you bring someone who questions your actions to the place where those actions are taken, how do they know? Getting from point A (your field) to point B (their table) should be easy enough to describe. Unfortunately, there are those who will throw out terms like “factory farms” and “antibiotic use” and “genetically modified” without accurate definition and understanding.
Think for a minute about how children learn. We can show them and explain to them, and sometimes, still, there are pieces of the puzzle we need to fill in for them.
I have friends whose young children spend a lot of time with their mom and dad, working with cattle. They artificially inseminate (AI) their cows and my friends have explained this concept to their children and the children have witnessed the process.
The 11-year old has a better understanding than her little brother. Apparently, mom caught the 7-year old just in time. He had a drinking straw in one hand and the family cat (a tom) in the other. After his dad finished relating the story to me, with a big toothless grin, the second grader explained, “We need some kittens.” (By the way, he now fully understands the concept.)
With so many misconceptions and accusations flying around about our industry, we must be certain that we are not omitting a critical part of the story we are telling. Unlike my young friend, our audience is many generations removed from the farm.