Most people are not farmers. You, reading this, likely are not a farmer (if you are, cool! Hi!). But you probably know someone who is (if you don’t – you kind of know me, and that counts). Farmers do a pretty important job for, y’know, the world. Farmers make our food. They raise and care for the animals that we consume. They grow and harvest the crops that we eat and that we use to make things to eat, making sure that those crops are safe for us to eat in the first place. They make sure to care for the land they use in order to grow those crops and raise those animals that the rest of us eat so that the land can continue to stay healthy enough to keep growing those crops and raising those animals so that we can, y’know, keep eating.
You are hopefully a fan of farmers; have a general fondness towards them because they do a good job at feeding everybody. But sometimes, you might find yourself feeling curious… or feeling irritated… or even getting mad at your local farmer. Why are they driving that big, hulking tractor down the highway and taking up almost the whole road? Why does it smell so bad every time I drive by that pig barn – can’t they contain the smell? Why aren’t all farmers organic? Why do farmers need genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to grow their crops?
I used to feel this way and ask these questions. I used to question farmers and farm practices, and I maybe even believed that I knew a thing or two about farming even though I was not raised on a farm and had (knowing what I know now) essentially zero agricultural knowledge. Despite what this video says… God did not make this farmer.
How Do You Really Know What You Think You Know About Farming?
If you’ve read any of my other posts – or at the very least, the title of my blog – you know that I’m now a farm girl. And I’m damn proud of it. I never imagined that I would be living this life, but I am and I love it and consider myself damn lucky to be living it. But that is not to say that since I married a farmer and am now living on a farm and raising my kids on a farm that I know every little thing there is to know about farming and agriculture and why our industry works the way it does. Ha! Faaaaaarrrrr from it, actually. Just ask my husband or in-laws – I probably ask them a million questions a day about what’s happening on our farm and about what’s happening in our industry (for us, that’s dairy and crop production). I ask because I know I don’t know the whole story and I want to learn.
Farming and agriculture can be very controversial for many people to discuss because they feel very passionately (which is great!) about a topic or topics that they don’t actually know much about (not so great). Things like food prices, GMOs, organic vs. conventional farming, etc. Believe me, I know this because I used to be that person. By “that person,” I mean an uneducated consumer.
The funny thing was, I didn’t even really realize I was uneducated. I thought I knew that organic food was better because I’d read on The Internet about how chemicals are bad for you and farmers apparently spray chemicals everywhere, all the time and that can’t be good so who wants to eat a salad that’s actually filled with chemicals, right? Right?! Well… that’s not the way it works, and I only really started learning about the reality of farming and ag when I started asking questions and getting first-hand experience with it.
(and in case you’re wondering, I still don’t know a whole lot about organics because nope, our farm is not organic. But I’m learning!)
The Double-Sided Coin
Now, I totally get that not everybody can – or wants to! – just pick up and move to the country to start farming and start learning about farming. But in light of that, it’s important to remember, as the saying goes, that there are two sides to every story. My feeling is that with how easy it is to access information about pretty much anything, including the food we eat, the farmer side of the farming/ag story is still very often forgotten about or overlooked by most people. It’s so easy to feel fully informed about farming when you read something on Facebook or click on a YouTube video that’s making the rounds on Twitter, and believe that what you’re reading or seeing is the truth in all facets of the situation. Again, I know this because I did it. I was adamant about what I thought I knew about organic lettuce because I’d read an article or two online. Sure, it’s totally possible that you’re already smarter than I was and have thoroughly educated yourself on both sides of the organic lettuce story. But it never really occurred to me to actually ASK a farmer – better yet, a farmer who grows lettuce! – about the difference between organic lettuce and non-organic lettuce. I just sort of felt like I was smart enough to know about things that I didn’t actually know about.
Of course, I got a pretty rude awakening when I started asking questions and learning about farming and agriculture in general. When I first met my husband, I felt really apprehensive about even asking him questions because I was embarrassed that I didn’t already know the answer. But how could I? I was not raised on a farm and had zero experience in ag. So even though I was feeling (and still feel, sometimes) pretty silly, I also felt/feel very empowered. Taking in both sides of the agriculture story gave me a whole new perspective that I didn’t even know I was missing out on. So I was able to evolve and change what I thought I knew. And isn’t that the point of learning?
Ask, and You Shall Be Informed
This is not about me changing your views on food or telling what you should or shouldn’t eat, yada yada yada. What I’m saying here is… don’t be like I was. Don’t be an uneducated consumer. If you have questions about farming and/or agriculture, ASK. You can start by asking me and commenting on this post. I still have tons to learn about farming and ag but will do my very best to answer your questions OR point you in the direction of someone who can if I don’t know the answer.
Another great resource are farm and ag blogs like this one. I’m still pretty new, but there are LOADS of awesome farmers out there who are blogging their way through the daily farm grind and have lots of info to share with you. Some of my favourites are… Nurse Loves Farmer, Dairy Carrie, Dinner Starts Here, and Farm & Food Care. I also check Monsanto’s blog occasionally for larger scale ag industry news, and am working through this amazing list of farm blogs from Janice Person.
You can also ask a farmer who is local to you! If you live in a rural area, you probably know (or are related to!) at least one person who farms and is willing to answer a question or two (or 17, depending on your level of curiosity). If you live in an urban center and “the country” is a fair distance in the car, head to a farmer’s market and ask questions of the people behind the farm stands. Then, get ready to learn!
This is actually the first in a series of posts called Farm Fridays. Every Friday, I’m going to post a story or general info or something to do with farming, whether it be specific to what’s happening on our farm or something that’s happening in the industry. Who knows – maybe I’ll even base my next post on a question I receive from this one.
Happy Farm Friday, everybody!