I opened Facebook this morning and had a notification of a posting from a woman in a private group I belong to for women in ag. I read it and my heart hurt and I was just instantly pissed off all at the same time. This woman was asking for help on how to respond to over 20 comments she had overnight on an educational video she made that were rude, mean and just downright disrespectful. I know....we put ourselves out there so we leave ourselves subject to the mercy of the internet public, but just because you disagree with someone does not give you the right to be down right rude - or even threaten people - as is happening lately.
I know you are supposed to go by the old saying of you catch more flies with honey, but you know, it feels like all we are attracting are some seriously pissed off honeybees, wasps or hornets. Women in ag have become more vocal and active on farms the past 5-10 years and are taking a leading role in attempting to educate our population about agriculture. We take time away from our kids, husbands and other family duties to do nothing more than bring awareness to those who have no connection to a farm. We put our heart and soul into this - this is personal to us. I guess it's our choice, but many times we show our kids, our homes - personal details about our life that some just don't even deserve to know. But it is for a cause....and a good one.
I would guess 50 years ago if you did a poll and asked what some of the most respected occupations in our country - or the world - were, I wouldn't have been surprised if farmers ranked right near the top. Now where would they rank? What is it that people are just so darn scared of? Is it because you really know nothing about it? It is the fact that we use the words "science" and "technology"? Is that something you don't equate with food? I find it ironic that technology is so easily and widely accepted when its your tablet/iPad or your fancy new phone, but when our profession tries to use it with food, apparently it's ok to get threatened, called names - a shill, a liar, uneducated....just to name a few. I would challenge anyone to come to our house and meet my husband, my father, my father in law - about anyone in our rural communities and tell me that they are nothing more than pawns and equated to slimy snake oil salesmen.....cause that's how farmers are being portrayed by a louder and louder voice in our country. I would love to see you go up against any of these men and women on a number of issues and see how "uneducated" you think they are. Farmers are some of the damn smartest people you will ever meet.
It's pretty easy to be a really good farmer from your comfy, quiet house in your suburban neighborhood or downtown apartment. I would challenge any of you who oppose conventional agriculture to actually LEARN what farming is and is about and then tell me how much you know. It's getting worse lately, but the funny thing is....farmers haven't generally fought with each other over these issues in the past! They have too much respect for the job to bicker over who's doing it "right" and who's doing it "wrong", and quite frankly they are too busy. Farmers know there is a place for a huge spectrum of different types of farming. So why are you fighting with farmers about it? I would really like to know what people actually are afraid of or opposed to. And I could give a hoot less about all your recycled Food Babe-Dr Mercola-Natrual News-blah, blah, blah talking points. If you can't have an intelligent, informed opinion on why what we are doing is so wrong, frankly today, I don't care what you have to say. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but we are to a point of what else are we supposed to say?
For some reason, farmers are not viewed as credible, reliable source about agriculture. What??? How can that even be? Said it once, say it a thousand times.....you go to a doctor or nurse if you are sick. You take your car to a mechanic. You go to a lawyer if you need legal advice. Why don't you go to a farmer when you have questions about food production? I don't get it. There are thousands on Facebook, twitter, etc that are accessible and so open to answering your questions. You want to show me an example of a "bad" farmer? That's fine - I'm sure you can find many examples. But we could also go through and find "bad eggs" - as my grandpa would call them - in every single darn profession that exists in the world. Get over it.... Recently, one ignorant comment was made about nurses on a national TV show and the world about blew up. Why aren't people jumping to the defense of farmers on such a broad level when they are being even more blatantly attacked? Both are extremely noble professions.
I am mad today because people refuse to attempt to understand what we do and why. I have a burning desire to educate anyone on what WE do....not because it is the 100% correct or the only way - but it's because it's our way of doing what we love best. And other farmers you meet will be happy to share why they do what they do. No two people probably have the same philosophy on how to clean your house....so why is farming supposed to be a one-way-is-the-only-way from people who have no idea what they are talking about?
It's a hard pill to swallow when people don't respect you. My husband comes home every night tired, dirty and exhausted most of the time. And it's all for a too many people who have no respect for what he does. How is that right? I shoulder many responsibilities and tasks for a good 3-4 months of the year because we really hardly see my husband. I have 3 little kids who cry when they go to bed because dad's not there - because he's still working. And cry when they get up at 6:30 in the morning because dad's not there - he's already left to go to work for the day. Do you think that's fun? No....but we do it and we get through it just fine, because this is what we do. For too many people who have no respect for it-once again. It's hard to always keep your cool when you get slapped in the face time and time again about something that means so much to you. This is where I came from. This is where my husband came from. And this is where our kids are going to come from. And unlike many people these days, we will teach our kids to respect other people and their opinions and professions - so they don't end up like too many "expert farmers" out there on the internet and at their March against Monsanto groups, etc.
I'd like to say I'm sorry for anything I've typed, and maybe some day, or today, I will regret putting this out there. But at this moment I'm not. It's time for farmers and agriculture to speak up and fight back instead of always having to be so polite and kind and take the high road. Sometimes I think it needs to be ok to tell people they are using completely false information and have no idea what they are talking about. You are given respect when you give it to someone else. I'm tired of seeing well intentioned men and women being called names and treated like dirt when they are trying to educate and help.
So now what? Once I take a deep breath, we'll just continue doing what we do. I am hoping to help get a program started in our local school to help teach about agriculture at all grade levels. It's desperately needed - and I'm so hopeful it will actually come to be. It's what I can try to do. But how do we move forward with these conversations? What is it that all these people are really so unsure/scared/mad about? What you want - safe food for your family - is exactly what we want too. We want the land to be well cared for to pass down to future generations too. If you are a supporter of all farmers, thanks for that support! If you really support farmers, be vocal about it! If you appreciate what all farmers do, no matter what productions methods they choose to use, let people know!
I don't encourage behavior like many people practice online, but at some point, agriculture has to stop being as polite as we've been raised to be, and fight back a little. If we don't, this noisy group might some day dictate what we do on our farm. And that would be bad news for everyone. Educate yourselves - and don't bite the hands that feeds you...pun intended.