I grew up in an enchanted place. A tiny town, where everyone knew each other. A place where, when someone faced a hard time, the community united to make things a little easier. A magical world where morals and respect came first. When my father passed away during hay season of 2002, my family was in need of nothing. My mother, myself, and my three older siblings had the warmth of a blessed community to find comfort in.
Now that I’m grown, some disenchantment has struck me. I’ve come to realize not everyone in my rural hometown is a saint. The magic has worn off, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s opened doors to a reality that is, in some ways, not as good, but in others, better. I may have woken up to some of the harsher realities of the world, but I can’t help but feel like that makes the good parts shine brighter.
I think that’s the reason I don’t ever want to live anywhere but the country. The community seems to matter more there. The world doesn’t have to be such an anonymous place. There may be dark spots and scars, but the majority of the time, it’s hope and warmth that greets you there.
In light of awful events at a dairy in Ohio, I feel like it’s more important than ever to exemplify the mentality of the community. Agriculture needs unity now more than ever. There are so many reasons for folks to support each other, rather than to harbor hostility.
For one, the market relies on a fairly-equal balance between different sects. Once upon a time, organic growers were a rare minority feeding a small market. Now, in many ways, they’re neck-and-neck with the conventional folks. The market status quo may be working to a point, but in many ways the interactions are harsh. There is hostility among the groups, and judgement. This saddens me.
On a local level, there’s a sense of neighborhood. I remember a conventional dairy farmer commenting on the fact that both her and her organic dairy neighbor benefited from their friendship when one of the organic cows fell ill. The cow needed medicine, but couldn’t be part of the milking herd anymore after receiving it. The organic farmer was able to place the cow somewhere, rather than cull it from the herd. The conventional farmer got a new milk cow, and the organic farmer had the peace of mind that went with the cow going to a place where it would be cared for properly.
That is all great. That neighbor mentality has gotten me through some pretty tough stuff in the past. However, when agriculture issues abound at the national level, the local community isn’t as powerful.
I’m not going to go on and on about my emotions regarding the Ohio dairy video. Yeah, I’m shocked. I’m mad. I cried a little for the cows. But enough people have written posts about that. My intention for this post is deeper.
Since my involvement with the Internet agricultural community began, I’ve been an advocate of ending the “us vs. them” mentality. Even if folks disagree on growing methods, nutrition, chemical use, equipment, etc., they can still respect each other as farmers and ranchers. They can debate without starting fights and disagree while still supporting each other. I know, because I make a conscious effort to fit into that peaceful-disagreement camp. There are many people who I greatly enjoy knowing and interacting with, whose views are dramatically different from mine.
A few co-workers fit into this category. Some friends. Many acquaintances who I may know well or barely at all. Regardless, they’re all people, and they’re all members of my community. Similarly, all farmers and ranchers, regardless of herd size or acreage, growing methods or preferences, are all a part of the agriculture community.
Now more than ever, agriculture needs its community. Throw aside cliques and forget hostility. Whether you have 7 acres, 700, or 7,000…recognize the fact that we’re all a part of the beautiful minority that feeds America and the world. As groups aim to hurt agriculture in major ways, it’s time to toss aside industry stereotypes and titles. Whether you farm as a “hobby” or have a farm large enough to be considered a “factory,” pro-veganism rhetoric and inner-industry hostility can hurt us all.
Right now, it’s time to rally. Will you be considered one of the bright, hopeful, welcoming members of the community? Or will you be one of those dark spots?