Post after post. Picture after picture. My socal media is completely filled with farmers who are tired. They’re broke. They’re scared. They’re sad. And for many of us, this is our whole newsfeed. And through social media we have come together to share our stories, to comfort each other, to offer suggestions and ideas. But let’s face it, most people tend to stick to the same friends, the same interests, the same stories and pages. They don’t venture off much to hear about what’s happening with a different group of people. And I’m guilty of that too. But that needs to change.
There are quite a few farmers out there who share their stories, both happy and sad, for everyone to know. They share their barns, you get to know their animals. They tell you about their kids and how 2 year old Johnny suddenly decided he will only eat hotdogs cut into star shapes and that is all, because toddlers are picky regardless of what their parents do. They open their homes and show you pictures of their Christmas tree and their lazy dog sleeping by the fire. They post angry faces when it starts snowing yet again for what has to be the longest spring in the history of the world. (Seriously though-I’m pretty sure it is). They show you that they are the same as you.
Why do this? Why, when someone is on their feet working 12+ hour days, would they want to go home and put all this time into showing you about their life? Why would they want to reach into your circle on Facebook and get you to know what it’s like for a different group of people? Why take the risk of getting death threats or being called names? Why spend all this time just to be beaten down? Does it even matter?
YES. It always matters. Where your food comes from should always be on your mind. How it’s produced, who’s producing it, when and where and why, all those questions should be on your mind each time you are at the grocery store. Just think for a minute of alllllll the professions in this world. You probably have dealt with a banker. You ask him mortgage questions and loan rates.You have a lawyer, maybe to help you write your will. You have a doctor for those times Google told you you have a rare tropical disease even though you have never been south of Pennsylvania. You have a mechanic for those stretched-to-far-in-between oil changes. All these people in your life you know. You trust. You ask advice because they are experts in their field. You ask questions, they give answers. They back it up with research and tell you where to go if you want more information. However, no one wants to talk to farmers. Even though farmers probably practice their profession more than anyone else on the planet, they aren’t trusted. These experts are being disregarded for Dr Google. But think, how often do you contact your banker or lawyer? Now one more question, how often do you eat?
I have a pretty good idea why people started not trusting farmers, and it began with social media. It started when activists who have never been within 50 miles of a cow decided they knew what was better for cows than farmers, who spend their whole life taking care of them. Then the backyard gardener made you afraid of conventional products. They scared you with big long words and told you farmer’s were trying to poison you. And then started the anti GMO group. Because science has never invented anything useful.
And through social media, people became scared of what’s in their food. These documentaries have been made explaining farming, so they have to be true right?
This is one reason why I agvocate. I put myself, my farm, my family out there to be world to explain how and why things are done like they are. Should I have to? Do you question why your mortgage rate has gone up? Do you argue with the mechanic when he tells you you need new brakes? Probably not. But if I need to explain every single thing I do then I will. I will talk to you till I am blue in the face about procedures. I will show you research and give you other people to talk to. I may be biased, after all it is what I do for a living, but I will back it up with documented unbiased information. Can those other groups, the one putting the fear of God into you, say that?
Why else do I do this? It’s for me. It’s for my friends. For my family. For that less than 2% of the population that spends long, back breaking day after long, back breaking day to feed us. It’s to stand up for what I believe in and for myself. To say, hey, here I am, just a person working my butt off for nothing. Stop hating me. Trust in me.
Many people may not realize the rapid rate at which we are losing dairy farms. There’s roughly one dairy farm per over 8,000 people. And the numbers are dwindling fast. Farmers get paid per hundredweight of milk. Most need at the very, very least around $16 to break even. Our last milk check was for $14. So we obviously aren’t doing this for the money. But still you won’t trust us. But what happens when there aren’t any farms left? Instead of standing in the grocery store saying, “oh look, this milk is from farms right here in my area, and probably got here within a day or two from the cow”, you could be saying “oh look, how nice another shipment of milk just arrived from China”. Your choice. If you like the sound of the first one better than maybe you should be advocating too.
So what am I asking you to do? First, follow a farmer or two on social media. They’re not hard to find. Learn what REALLY happens on a dairy. Second, stand up for us. For yourself and your food. If you see something. If you read something that doesn’t seem right, if you over hear something, call the person out. Ask where they learned that information and what research is behind it. Ask if they have ever been to a farm or have experience working with livestock.
Lastly, I ask for your trust. I ask that you go back to trusting us farmers and what we do and why we do it. We eat the same food you do. We feed our kids the same milk. We need your support. But it’s not just for us, it’s for your good too. I mean unlike those other professions you put your trust into, you need a farmer several times a day, every single day. This is your health and your food too afterall. So don’t do it for me. Do it for you. Before it’s too late.