In general, I believe farmers are by nature passionate and dedicated people. Farmers would not continue to daily manage the physical aspects of farming along with the tremendous stress involved if it were not so. Farmers, for generations have been loyal and steadfast while waging a war against the odds.
I love farmers and I believe the hearts of most farmers are genuine and pure. Yes, there are "bad" farmers out there whose idea of success is to rape and pillage the earth and who drive their animals into the ground in order to make another dollar. But, the reality is that overall, farmers are hardworking, compassionate people who love what they do for a living, respect their animals and treat them well, and who respectfully manage their farms.
This is why I find the battle between various agricultural groups to be disheartening. I will admit, I am one who loves peace. I promote peace and do not like to see the ugliness that comes when two sides wage war on one another. I do understand that life is not simple and that often change (for good or for bad) only takes place when confrontation takes place. Don't get me wrong. I am one who thoroughly enjoys a thought provoking conversation with someone who does not have the same belief system as I do. A conversation with someone who has different religious beliefs, political views, and even different views on farming is educational and thought provoking to me. If both sides can treat one another with respect and agree to disagree on certain points, then these types of conversation can actually build bridges instead of walls without either side finding it necessary to give up their own core values.
I find that with most everything, the truth is rarely what is being forced upon us by the shouting of either "side". The truth is usually found by looking at both sides with an open mind and finding the truth "somewhere in the middle".
On one side of the agricultural battle, we have those who have been labeled as "Big Ag" or "Conventional Farmers". On the other side, we have the so called "Organic Movement", "Sustainable Farmers" or those who promote the "Buy Local" movement. In case you did not realize it, a real battle is going on between these two groups. I subscribe to news feeds and articles from both "sides" and I find it very distressing to see the two groups fighting each other when I personally feel that both groups are made up of mostly good people who really have a lot in common. Instead of being able to focus their energy into their true passion..............farming............they are finding it necessary to focus their energies into providing "proof" and "documentation" as to why their way of farming is the best. There are groups such as ADVOCATES FOR AGRICULTURE whose sole purpose is to promote conventional farming and dispel the "myths" that are being propagated by such folks as Michael Pollen, Joel Salatin, and others who are proponents of the "BUY LOCAL" movement. Yesterday, a Washington Post article was posted on this site as "proof" that homegrown, backyard eggs do not taste any better than eggs from "commercial" poultry houses. On the other side we have groups who are posting gross abuse of farm animals in an effort to get folks to make a choice based on the emotions they feel after viewing such a disgusting display of cruelty. These folks are being led to believe that all "conventional" farmers treat their livestock in such a manner. Ploys are being used by the extreme right and the extreme left to persuade folks to make emotionally charged decisions.
Personally, I have been "blasted" by some who have stated that I am not "organic enough" and I have been ridiculed by others who say that I am not a "real" farmer because I am unconventional in a lot of my ideas and methods.
My purpose of this post is not to take sides because I honestly feel that both sides have some valid points. Rather, I believe that there is a market for those who believe and support conventional farming as well as for those who are interested in farming using organic methods and those farmers who are not necessarily organic but who farm on a small scale and provide quality products for their local customer base. I know I am making this overly simplistic but just as there are several different brands of jeans made for folks with different styles and needs, why can't we just all agree that there are different types of consumers who will support various types of farming? For the consumer, I would advocate looking beyond the emotional, knee-jerking videos and articles of either side and take the time to search deeper and learn who the farmers are behind the products that you are consuming.
I know that what really drives these heated debates is not that we can't agree that we should all be allowed to farm in the way we feel is right for us, but rather the contentions come from the fact that our government is controlling almost every aspect of farming to the point that the farmer CAN'T make his own decisions based on his own personal preferences and beliefs. This is true whether you are a farmer that must depend on government subsidies in order to keep the dream alive or whether you are a proponent of raw milk and wish to be able to legally sell raw milk to a customer base that is demanding the product. Our hands our tied and to add to the frustration whatever side of the fence the consumer might find themselves on, they are often blindly following one side or the other without truly getting to know the farmers who are producing the food.
Although there are bad apples in most every basket, in general Farmers are good people who love what they are doing and are passionate about providing a quality product for the consumer. Can we stop bashing the farmers? And as farmers, can we learn to respect our differences and realize that their are plenty of folks out there with different views who are willing to support us? Can we find a way to support each other without compromising our own beliefs? Can we support the right of the consumer to purchase raw milk if that is their desire while understanding that many folks would rather have their milk pasteurized and that is their right as well? Can we somehow find a way to get away from all the government control over the farmer so that we all have the freedom to follow our hearts?
Natural disasters, floods, droughts, blight, animals born breech, predators that kill , long hard days in the sun, skin that grows old before it's time, lines around the eyes from squinting as the sunlight reflects off the tractor, weary muscles, aching bones, long days, short nights, tears over the loss of livestock, and a multitude of other trials that the farmer must face is enough to deal with.
Is their an ulterior motive and some sinister mind behind all of the conflict between folks who should be supporting each other or is it the fact that we are just human and when we allow the ugliness of our nature to get the better of us, we attack and destroy those whom we should be supporting?
Just let us farm in peace.