We Do Care just like Grandma and Grandpa did!

The greatest challenge that I see that faces agriculture is the loss of trust of our consumers.  As we get consumers that are generations removed from agriculture, the harder it is for agriculture to bridge the gap.

A couple of generations ago, when children were leaving the farms to go to college and start a new career that didn’t require the 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year of hard work, is when the change in agriculture started.  This generation left farms and moved away and as they did they had images of little red barns and pastures.   With new education, there became a gap between those that stayed on the farm and those that left.  Often times this gap was illustrated by condescending and social status.  Farmers at this time were often considered “the dumb farmers”.

As the next generation came, they still had some connection to agriculture as they spent weekends with Grandma and Grandpa on the farm.  There was still the gap and farmers were either the Grandmas and Grandpas of the world, or they were not motivated or smart enough to move away from the farm.

It was at this time that agriculture wanted change the message.  We weren’t the dumb Love your workfarmers.  We wanted to consumers to realize that we were running a business.  That we were intelligent and motivated to better than those that came before us.  Part was out of necessity as more and more consumers were demand products from a declining population of farmers.  Farmers had to embrace the future and modernize their operations for efficiencies.   I personally believe that the larger part was a sense of pride.  Farmers love what they do and take great pride in what they can accomplish.   So farmers started using business terms:  instead of farming it became industry; instead of barns it was facilities.  Agriculture detached itself from the emotion of farming to prove that we were not the “Dumb farmers”.

This was our down fall.  As we strived to become equals with our town counterparts, we portrayed the image that we didn’t care like Grandma and Grandpa did and our consumers started to not trust large farms.  The more that consumers started questioning us, the more that it appeared that they didn’t trust us.  The more that they didn’t trust us, the more that we didn’t want to share what we were doing.  It became a vicious cycle.  The more consumers questioned, the more we shut down communication.

Over the last couple of decades, farmers have realized that the majority of consumers just wanted to know that we still cared about our land and our animals.  We have since started to share our story and put the emotion back into our story.  We will never be able to change those that are opposed to specific aspects of agriculture.  We will never change the mind of those that think all animals should be running free.  We will never change the mind of those that believe the fear marketing that many have started.  What we can do is tell our story to those that just want to know that we care like Grandma and Grandpa did.

babyThere have been many people before me that have told their story successfully and have helped many other farmers learn how communicate with consumers.  Over the last couple of decades there have been several organizations that have developed courses and online tools that can help farmers tell their story.   Many farmers are self-teaching Social Media and using it as a tool to share their story.

Agriculture in general still have many hurdles to overcome to build our consumers’ trust again.   There is still a large group of individuals that are using Fear Marketing to tell their story and convince the general public that farmers do not care about anything but their profit.  Farmers are resilient.  They still are “willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.”  They are still “strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild.”  They are “willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt.  And watch it die.”  They will “finish a forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain ‘n from ‘tractor back’, put in another seventy-two hours” the only difference from when Paul Harvey said these words in 1978 to today, is there is also countless other hours put in telling their story and proving to our consumers that we still do care!  We are still the ones “who’s bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son (or daughter) says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does’.”

Family fence

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True Love – 24/7, 365 Days a Year

It has been an exciting day. While many have to spending the day with loved one, celebrating their love on Valentine’s Day, Simon and I have spent the day together doing what we love.

While many others were getting ready for a night out on the town with their love to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Simon and I were using my hair dryer for a different purpose.

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Farming is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and those of us that are lucky enough to be a farmer do it regardless! Animals don’t know that it is Valentine’s Day. They don’t know that you had your heart set on going to the movies and dinner with your husband. Animals are relentless in their demands regardless of time of the day, temperature or what plans you thought you had.

So while many spent the day preparing to celebrate their love, Simon and I celebrate ours like we do every day … sharing our dream, our passion and our true love of animals and being a farmer. We spent the day bringing new life into this world and giving into the demands of these new little lambs. By the time we got done with everything and back into the house, we were both exhausted. A very hot shower later and scrabbled eggs for dinner, we are both very blessed that we got to spend our Valentine’s day doing what we truly love!

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It’s Life! It’s Love!

There is a new billboard in the county that I would like to give a huge “Thank You” to Dairyland Vet Clinic for sponsoring. I am not sure if you have had the chance to see it as you drive west on Highway 54 outside of Luxemburg. It is simple and to the point and simply says … “It’s Life. It’s Love.” And while it is about the dairy farming, it is also about all of agriculture, regardless of the size of the farm or who works on the farm or if it is organic or traditional.

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This billboard has given me pause to think about what my life would have been like without agriculture. There was a time when I was growing up that I didn’t want to following in the footsteps of those that came before me and go into farming. When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get out of the small town and experience life away from the farm, as am sure many of you did. And I did … for a while, but it didn’t take long to realize exactly what this billboard is saying.

What many do not realize is that farming is something that gets into your blood. There is something very satisfying to watch crops grow in the hot summer sun. Even after all these years, it takes my breath away when I see the cows out on pasture. I still get teary eyed every time a new lamb or calve is born.IMG_0281

In farming, there is honor in getting up before the sun and getting home after dark. There is great satisfaction in the sore muscles after that long day. Farming teaches you at a very early age, that it doesn’t always go your way. There will be heart aches and ups and downs, and times when you are so exhausted you wonder if you can keep going. But you do and you do it because it is something you love to do.

My time away from agriculture taught me a couple of things. One of the things that I treasure the most, is it gave me a perspective of what those that are removed from farming think farming truly is. In my time away from farming, I met wonderful friends, who are still some of my closest friends today, and it gave me the opportunity to help bridge the gap between Farm to Fork.

Agriculture is who I am. I am NOT a farmer to make millions. I am NOT a farmer to destroy the environment. I AM a farmer to help feed the local community and the world. I AM a farmer because it is my life. I AM a farmer because it is what I love.

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GIving Thanks

As many are either just setting down to a Thanksgiving Feast, as you are around the table with family and friends, as you give the your blessing or thanks for the food you are about to eat, please give thanks to all the farmers that provided the food for your table.  Wether you are have an all vegetarian dinner and a traditional dinner, there was a farmer that provided the food for you.  

While our afternoon now looks like this … 

Our morning was spent like other farmers throughout the country … doing chores.

 

So as you are setting down to enjoy your dinner, please give thanks to all the farmers that have helped to provide your dinner today and all other days.

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Don’t Judge Everyone by One Video

I am going go to break away from the topic of this month’s blog challenge to talk about something else for a moment.  I have taken some time to try and put together my thoughts on the new under covered video that was released yesterday. Like many others that have posted about the video I was more than shocked to see some of images. There is abuse in the video, which turned my stomach like it did many others. At no means to I approve of the abuse that was shown in the video. Animal abuse should be investigated and charges pressed if needed. Animal abuse should not be happening in modern animal agriculture!

I refuse to give a link to the video as I will not give the video legs to spread, needless to say, the video was beyond disturbing. I was sickened to see what was in the video.  I have said many times before to be aware of what you are actually seeing.   I have also stated several times to not judge all dairy farms as what you see in one video.  We don’t assume that every father is abusive just because we see one father hit his son, why does society assume that all dairy farms (or other livestock operations) behave as seen in one video?  

Alot of the reason why society believes this is … my true thoughts is that society doesn’t have access to the stories and new releases that show anything other than the negative.  Those that are opposed to animal agriculture will use any type of “fear marketing” that they can to convience society that animal agriculture is horrible.  It is time that those that are involved in agriculture to step up to the plate and tell our story.  We have so much more to tell, so many positive things to share with our consumers.  We must open the doors and allow society to see that we have nothing to hide.  That we take care of our animals, that we care about the environment.  There is no one more dedicated to the continious protection the environment and the well being of animals than that of a farmer.

If the images in the video bother, please do not assume that all dairies abuse their animals.  I guess my message is simple, start a conversation. If you are involved in agriculture, reassure the consumers that your farm doesn’t operate as displayed by the video. If you are a consumer that concerned about animal agriculture, talk to the farmers and ask your questions. Don’t just assume and buy into the fear marketing.

The truth on our farm …. this is the way our animals are treated:

 

 

 

 

I am very proud of both Will and Alex for stepping up to the plate and helping to tell the truth of our farm.  They both have embraced my passion for educating about the truth of agriculture.

 

Until tomorrow … I will go back to my topic at hand … sustainablility 

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Times Have Changed or Have They?

I pulled out some of my old books the other day when I was trying to decide what my next topic should be.  I should mention that by old books, I mean just that.  I did my thesis on an Economic Comparison of 1910 Agriculture to Modern Day Agriculture and in my research I stumbled across some really interesting books.

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I am not sure if you can read the copyright on this book but it is 1911.

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And while the media may have changed from hard covered books to iPads, farmers have the same thing in mind.  How do we protect our land and our animals?  How to we provide for our families? How to we secure our farms for the next generation?

Science and technology has improved agriculture.  It has made it more sustainable, as it has many other industries.  I am always amazed when I hear people refer to new improvements and technology as unsustainable.  Why is in technology unsustainable and frowned upon in agriculture, but considered the promising future for other industries?

Just a few thoughts to ponder ….

Until tomorrow .

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The Future is with the Youth

I have the privilege to be one of the adult advisors to a great group … The Kewaunee County Teen Board …. and tonight is our Teen Board Lock-In and Retreat.  There is a wide variety of youth that are involved in this group, some that are involved in agriculture and some that are not, but everyone is respectful and accepting of each other’s opinions, feelings and thoughts.   As I watch the youth participate in different team building activities I have realized that many of the adults within our community could learn a lot from these youth.

The youth in the group have learned that their voice is important.  They have learned that it is important to make others feel welcomed and respect others feelings and opinions even if those feelings and opinions are different from their own.   I am very honored and proud to be a part of this group and am looking forward to seeing what they will accomplish as they move onto the next chapter of their lives.  

So what does this have to do with sustainability, especially sustainable agriculture?  Sustainability in any field lays with the youth and the young adults that will soon be enrolling in their first college classes or starting their first job, they are the ones that will lead agriculture into the future.  One of the youth tonight made a statement when we were talking about why it is important that they use their voices.  She said “We can be the catalyst in the community”.  She is absolutely right!  These youth are the catalyst within our community.  They are the ones that will moving agriculture into the future.  They are the ones that are going to have to find and implement the new technologies that will improve the sustainability of agriculture.

I get excited every time I hear them talk about where they are heading off to college and their plans for their future.  Their optimism is contagious.  There is one youth that believe in the future of agriculture as much as I do and isn’t afraid to tell her story and share her experiences in agriculture.  She speaks truth and tries to educate about the truth of agriculture.  

I have watch these youth go to the State Capital and speak about their experiences in 4H and the importance of 4H in their lives. I have watch as some of them have walked out of the ring with the Grand Champion animal and other go congratulate them for their hard work, even when their animal was not chosen as the Grand Champion. I have watched as they cheer each other on at sporting events, even though they all go to different schools. This group of youth truly are the future leaders of our community and I for one cannot wait. I am hopeful that their enthusiasm and leadership will promote the future of agriculture.

It promises to be an exciting future for agriculture!

 

Until tomorrow ..

Amber 

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