Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 22: Pointing Fingers Never Pays

Recently I have spent large portions of my time trying to dispel the fear associated with "factory farms" face to face with individuals. On Wednesday I presented to another set of high school AG classes and for the most part it was a great day.

I did have one shock. Even though it shouldn't have been a shock because I have been waiting for this for weeks. Before I had even begun the last presentation of the day I had one student tell me that factory farms were the most evil thing on the planet. And that chickens are pumped full of hormones like they are on a processing line.

Horror of horrors, she had just quoted the recent Chipotle campaign to me. Without saying Chipotle. Or where she had heard/seen these spectral images.

Hormone use is always covered in my presentations, because hormone use in pigs and poultry is illegal. Like really illegal. You can look it up if you don't believe me. Especially if you just paid extra money to buy that pork or poultry that was labeled as "hormone-free"...when it's all as hormone-free as anything can be (remember that hormones are in everything NATURALLY so there is no such thing as hormone-free food).

Anyway, that comment ended a day that had begun with the following commentary:

I still find myself reading comments on everything (even though I promised myself long ago I would cease to do that! Especially since it often makes my blood pressure rise...) and this comment is one I find frequently.

"Small farms are being destroyed by larger farms. Our state has lost many 100 cow dairies because of the larger dairy farms taking over."

Now I am no dairy farmer but that statement always burns me. Because I am dating a man who works on equipment for dairy farmers in Wisconsin for a living. And whose friends run 100 cow dairies. As far as I am concerned if 100 cow dairies were disappearing for good then Wisconsin would cease to exist as a state. Seriously.

Yes, "small" farms can have a difficult time competing with "larger" farms, but if you truly want to thrive then you will find your niche. When I see that comment I immediately think how many of those dairies that sold out had no succession plan or nobody interested in taking over? How many people just decided farming wasn't something they wanted to do anymore? How many of those people were going to make a killing selling their land to developers? Or who found an opportunity that was far easier and much more lucrative than milking cows? (For example: an 800 cow dairy near Cody had financial issues and ended up giving up milking cows to raising heifers for a larger dairy because it was just such a better financial option for them.)

Is it really the fault of the successful farmer when somebody else goes out of business? I'm not trying to be insensitive here but to me it seems like business acumen may be what is missing. As far as I am concerned if you really want it then you will find a way. No matter how hard. No matter how awful.

Do I have all the answers? Hell no.

But as far as I am concerned, blaming the successful farmers for the problems of the not-so-successful farmers seems like a cop-out. Because I guarantee you that the hope of most small farms is to grow...and when they grow, will that suddenly make them the enemy as well?

Just as the fighting amongst organic and conventional (I will admit that I sometimes have a hard time with this, but I am trying to be more understanding) must end, the finger pointing must end as well. Blaming others for personal problems never accomplishes anything. Except to alienate friends and create a divide that may never be bridged.

So instead I vote we applaud those who are successful and help those who need a leg up. Because someday soon that might be me needing a leg up. Without the dairy cows of course ;)


  1. **clapping/cheering wildly** Yes! You're saying what I've been trying to communicate with people forEVER (okay, exaggeration...but, a very long time)
    You go, girl!

    1. Hahaha thanks :) This topic is a lot more powerful coming from someone like you who is on the frontline of this conversation you once upon a time food snob and corporate farmer! But I just couldn't take it any longer...I mean a girl can only take so much bull before she wants to just open the gate and let the bull go ;)