Cyndi's Two Cents

Help non-farm neighbors understand farming


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.

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  • As a resident of Kewaunee County, WI I am able to contest to a total lack of communication between the dairy industry and local residents. I developed a destination based tourism business on the shore of Lake Michigan 11 years ago and now fully regret my decision. I do use the term factory farm, we currently have 14 CAFO operations in our small county, and all aspects of everyday life is affected. Town hall meetings, DNR public comment meetings, even our privately supported public health forums are hijacked by CAFO owners and those who receive income from their operations. They will pack meeting halls and praise their practices without being open to public debate or accountability. When held back, they will resort to lawsuits as they did with a township suffering from a well contamination rate of 51% after they passed a ban on manure irrigation.

    There is farming and then there is factory farming. I see it everyday. An operation with 8,000 livestock imposes an industrial sized impact in a populated, waterborne environment.

  • Just the use of the phrase :factory farming” is pejorative and marks you. HSUS made up that term to denigrate farming as it exists today. The tiny farms of yesteryear are not as efficient or as profitable as what we have evolved to today, and we are never going back. The pejorative term “CAFO” was also an invented acronym now used to demonize highly efficient animal agriculture production.

    Of”Robyn”, doth she “protest too much!” Do those “CAFO” owners not pay taxes to your jurisdiction by which your tax rate is also held down? A tourism business that is failing wouldn’t just be about your own business acumen would it?

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