broken chain consumer agriculture farmer disconnect
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It really should not surprise me or disappoint me by now when I hear someone criticizing food production. After all of the blows and punches consumer groups have taken at crop and livestock producers over the past couple of years, one would think we would have the thick skin to tolerate it. But still I read and hear comments pointed at producers and it just confuses me.

One way I use social networks is to what others are saying about food production. On Twitter I often look up the feed for “feedlot” and see statements like this one posted:

If you think dog pounds are cruel check out a feedlot, chicken “farm”, meat processing plant. Then see if you can stomach another hamburger. –Posted on Twitter from Southern California

On Facebook I can do the same just by searching for the term “feedlot” and posts like this appear:

Cant drive through¬†Kansas without thinking a lot about food… beef and corn..miles of corn, much of it browned out..cattle everywhere.some in the fields.thousands in feedlots that look like parking lots.cattle that don’t move just eat and wait to eat more… mix some corn and chemicals and poof you have a bigger cow… strange country we are strange food industry… o look there`s `feedlot creek` – no swimming.

That statement was quickly followed by this:

Real road sign: Caution,correctional institute.Do not pick up hitchhikers….Imagined road sign: Caution, feedlot – do¬†not pick up hitchhiking cattle with that “i`m hamburger tomorrow if you don’t give me a ride” look.

Statements like these just really puzzle me. What is going on inside of people’s minds that they picture cattle production as this big machine? Then I remember the images I see on television and film of cattle handlers portrayed as rough stock handlers laughing at the animal’s misfortune, or news desk anchors scaring their audience into thinking we pump antibiotics and chemicals into animals by the gallons. Or snapshot images pieced together into a film with a voice over that tells viewers about harsh conditions animals endure in short, non-natural lives. And then I realize that all I know about Hollywood is what I have seen on television or read on the grocery store news stands. Why wouldn’t someone believe what they see in media to be the truth, especially if they have never witnessed the subject themselves?

We all know that consumers are disconnected from food production. When youngsters respond to a question asking about the origin of their meat or dairy products by saying it comes from the grocery shelf, or when consumers on the interstate drive by a feedyard and picture the knee-deep mud and crowded pens from television, it is time for our story to be told.

What is stopping us from having our true story on the Evening News? Why can we not produce a documentary about livestock production that will capture audiences? Some give the excuse that emotions sell and we cannot appeal to the emotions like the terrorizing images some are already showing. Who gives a crap? What is stopping us from telling our stories from the front lines, showing our daily hard work that puts food on tables around the world? It all starts with YOU. Each and every one of us has to do our part to make a difference. Put your story on paper, on film, or on the web. Tell your neighbors of your adventures. Share the good times and the bad. Do not be afraid to tell about that calf you lost due to sickness. You put a lot of hard work into trying to save it. What about all the others that you did save?

One by one, we can make a difference, but it takes that first step. We can be on the headlines of the Evening News or the daily columns with our true story of food production. It has already begun, but that does not mean we can stop. Get out there and do your part. The more consumers learn about those who produce their food, the more they become aware of how much it affects their daily lives. You never know when you might reach that one person that can make a difference.

Here are a few recent posts that are working to share the good story of production agriculture.

  • Working Ranch Magazine works to tell the daily life and work that takes place in cattle feedyards.
  • JP shares her thoughts on a comparison between the current Farmville craze and real agriculture.
  • This On The Farm post shares a little inlet to the knowledge and decision-making skills it take to be a professional farmer.
  • Let’s not forget the grassroots efforts of the AgChat Foundation to enable producers to utilize social media to share their stories.
  • I find the efforts of this Illinois Farm girl, turned New York Lawyer very interesting. Cari Rickner is not afraid to bring Agriculture front and center to the minds of those in an urban setting.

I really could go all day showing you links to those who are doing great things to agvocate, share the story of agriculture, but that’s not my point. Please take a leap out of your comfort zone, grab a camera, a laptop, a notepad, or take advantage of a planned trip to town and start sharing your story today.