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I eat. You farm. So what?

A recently overheard conversation at a suburban grocery store between a person buying food with comments from a farmer who was visiting and knew how to meet people on common territory instead of talking “ag.”

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Here’s the thing; I don’t really get why farmers are on the warpath. Really! We can get our food from anywhere. I just care that our family has food that’s affordable and safe. And I’ve heard some pretty bad things about you farmers.

You are poisoning water and soil by using pesticides and insecticides. Our family plays in the creeks and ponds on our land. Our kids chase fireflies through soybean fields, while playing hide and seek in corn fields. Do you really think we’re going to pour poisons in fields that surround our family home?  By the way, our well for water is between the house and the field. We understand that it’s not cool to use bad chemicals, which is why we rely on a whole lot of science, research and technology to ensure we’re using the right products.

Food plate & farmerBig farms are bad, and you all seem to be getting bigger. What size of school does your child go to? There are many different sizes of schools that offer options and choices for families. Likewise, we have a mix of large and small businesses in America due to our free marketplace. The same is true for farm families; some choose to farm a large number of acres or work with many animals, while others have small operations.  97% of farms in the U.S. are still owned by families; they deserve a right to choose the best option for their family and business like other Americans, don’t they?

Animals are abused on today’s farms. I’ve worked with animals my whole life. If you’ve seen the sensationalized videos from animal rights groups, I want you to know they probably impact me even more than you.  Animals that live in barns are actually in a lot better conditions – they get to stay at one temperature, avoid predators and have a environment that’s customized to their every need. Barns do look different today than in 1970, but isn’t the same true of computers, doctors offices and stores? Yes, animals die to feed humans, but we respect their sacrifice and care for them in the best way possible.

I’ve heard farm subsidies are making you rich on our tax dollars. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this, even within agriculture. However, the big thing people don’t realize about the “farm” program is that 86% of it is for mothers and children in need of food assistance. And I’m not asking for a handout from anyone, but we manage millions of dollars of risk every year – sometimes the safety net has kept our family in business – and is a tiny part of our national budget.

Biotechnology is evil. Do I look like Satan? Sorry, just joking. Our family chooses biotechnology because it’s the right tool for our farm. But more importantly, there are a lot of hungry people around the world, a problem that’s getting worse with a growing population. I was on a mission trip last year to Africa and saw this myself. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a hungry child? It haunts me – and that’s why biotechnology is a tool that we choose.

Hormones are making our kids develop way too soon! I have a daughter, so I get your concern – we don’t want to have kindergarteners in bras. Kids are growing more and faster because our diets are better.  Did you know there’s more hormones in a serving of broccoli than in a steak? People need to remember that all food has hormones – and it always has.

It’s been interesting to talk with you.  Are you on Facebook or are there ways we can stay connected? Sure, would be glad to connect with you. Our farm’s Facebook page has a lot of pictures to give you an inside look on what’s happening.  I’m also on Twitter and will put up some videos to show you what we’re doing during harvest. I’d also suggest you check out these websites…

Cool. I like that we share the same values. We may not always agree, but I appreciate what you do as a farmer a lot more after we’ve talked.  And I’ll remember you when I shop for our food.

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If you’re buying food, when have you sought out a person involved on a farm or ranch? Same for those in agriculture… when was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?

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21 Responses to “I eat. You farm. So what?”

  1. What a great post – thank you! I am going to share this on my blog (crediting yours, of course) if you don’t mind!

  2. [...] via I eat. You farm. So what? – Cause Matters. [...]

  3. Ryan says:

    Thank you for sharing Michele. I’m going to repost this.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks, always appreciate the sharing. Hopefully others will see this as an example of the kinds of conversations we need to have. It’s not about research, talking ag, showing technical knowledge. It’s about connect with people through emotions and shared values.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Great post Michele! I love how the message is set in a conversation.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks. If each person simply shares their family story, values, etc., we don’t have to worry about a message – just the connection.

  5. This is great! Bravo to you and the farmer who used common territory.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks. It was actually a dream I had the other night. Wanted to share it as an example. Science and technical ag terms don’t make connections. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of science, research and technology – but ag needs to improve our human-ness!

  6. Sarah says:

    I was just thinking yesterday what weird conversations I overhear at the store. I guess I need to hang out in the grocery store more so I can overhear good conversations!

    Thanks for sharing – I am glad that consumer has a better view after a short convensation!

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Yes, grocery story does have excellent people watching and interacting. This one was dreamed up scenario, based upon conversations I’ve seen or been a part of about food and farming. The outcomes of taking time to chat with people on their playing field can result in a better view – whether it’s live or even through social media.

  7. Johnnie Scott says:

    Great read.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Thanks. More to the point, hopefully something to engage minds about having a conversation.

  8. This was well written and was not the kind of inflamatory verbage that causes reader disconnect. While I have huge concerns about biotech (GMO/GE) and am not keen on growth hormones, I still believe in the American Farmer big and small, organic and conventional. If we cannot find the middle ground amongst ourselves, we will surely fall into the “United we Stand, Divided we Fall” pit.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper says:

      Hi Joyce, good to see you over here from the Twitterverse. I appreciate your comments and can understand that you have concerns. What we must strive is not agreement, but the belief you outlined in choices. I’m not asking everyone to support each statement, but rather take them to heart as ways farmers can have conversations. Thanks for your comment!

  9. Great article. I still hear (in my mind) the classmates who laughed at me yesterday when I said that after I finish my Masters in Business Administration degree, I want to become a farmer! I’m reposting this everywhere!

  10. Nice post. It shows how we can have a civil conversation about food and modernized farming without getting all worked up about it. I’m actually doing the same thing with someone via email the last few weeks. Just the other day a friend of mine sent me picture of the field behind her house because she wanted to know what happening out there. I may do what some others mentioned and repost this on my site as well!

  11. Richard says:

    Two things I read with interest: pesticides in our food system, and plant biotech seeds. The public really needs to be educated about understanding the reasons behind using toxic pesticides to grow food. Obviously, we compete with insects and other enemies that want to feed off of, or damage, our food crops. Synthetic pesticides are a good way to combat these threats from a large-scale farming perspective. Oh, organics are OK for a small-scale crop producting system, or for backyard growing, but organics are too expensive and labor intensive to truly feed 9 billion mouths in 2050. Any way you slice it, unless you want to pay $5 for an apple, pesticides must be applied. And federal and state regulations in the U.S. are the most strict in the world. Farmers drink from the same well, as many people forget. And plant biotechnology is here to stay. We can grow more food per acre, avoid the many application passes of inputs of pesticide and fertilizers, and reduce chemical usage overall by the use of biotech seeds such as those for corn and soybeans. And, it is worth mentioning, plant biotech products have been consumed in great amounts over the past dozen years, with no so much as a tummy ache. To sum up, modern agricultural practices in the U.S. have evolved over the last decades to provide us with the most affordable, safe and abundant food supply on the planet. Thank God for farmers, big and small!!

  12. [...] I eat. You farm. So what? A farmer walks into a suburban grocery store and talks with a food consumer. Read here for a conversation on hormones, pesticides, animal abuse, subsidies, biotechnology where there’s a connection made between two humans. [...]

  13. [...] Payn-Knoper, Michele. (2011). “I eat. You farm. So what?” Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog. Available online at: http://www.causematters.com/advocacy/i-eat-you-farm-so-what/ [...]

  14. [...] I eat. You farm. So what? A farmer walks into a suburban grocery store and talks with a food consumer. Read here for a conversation on hormones, pesticides, animal abuse, subsidies, biotechnology where there’s a connection made between two humans. [...]

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