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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable farming’

There is a BIG day coming up! Have you heard? It certainly isn’t as well-known as the annual celebration of Halloween or Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But a group of well-meaning folks have declared October 24 as Food Day. Unfortunately, the 6 goals they have laid out for their day portray modern farming and food production as something awful and MUCH, MUCH different from what I know on our own farm, my neighbors’  farms, and any farms or ranches, either large or sm all, that I have visited (which is many). In addition, they have failed to include the voices of families from all across America who work hard every day to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply. So, I have invited myself to join in their conversation 🙂 Please read on…

Today I want to touch upon one specific goal of the Food Day organizers. That goal is number 4 on their list & is stated as:   Protect the environment and farm animals by reforming factory farms.

The major point I want to make through all of this is that NOTHING we do feels anything factory-like. Below you will see definitions found at dictionary.com for both factory and farm:

fac·to·ry

ˈfækri, -tri/ [fak-tuh-ree, -tree] noun, plural -ries.

1.a building or group of buildings with facilities for the manufacture of goods.
2.any place producing a uniform product, without concern for individuality: They call it a law school, but it’s just a degree factory.
3.(formerly) an establishment for factors and merchants carrying on business in a foreign country.

farm

fɑrm/[fahrm]

noun

1.a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood.
2.land or water devoted to the raising of animals, fish, plants, etc.: a pig farm; an oyster farm; a tree farm.
3.a similar, usually commercial, site where a product is manufactured or cultivated: a cheese farm; a honey farm.
4.the system, method, or act of collecting revenue by leasing a territory in districts.
5.a country or district leased for the collection of revenue.
 
Let’s consider the #1 and #2 definitions of a factory:
1. We do have a building or set of buildings (the house, the shop, and the barns) which help us to store needed equipment and shelter a few animals under special circumstances (i.e. calving in a storm). Our primary “buildings” would be fence, as well as the sky for a roof and the earth as a floor.
2. Much to the dismay of restaurant chefs, we beef producers have not mastered anything close to a 100% uniform end product. Each animal is a creation of its own, yielding slightly different sizes of cuts of beef. We have breeds that help to promote similar product (meat quality, size, etc.) but every animal ends up being slightly different; they are living, breathing, individual creatures & are handled as such. Pork, poultry, and dairy producers face similar challenges.
 
As for the definitions of farm:  Well, we fit #’s 1 and 2. Not much else to say – that’s what we have and what we do in this world.
 
To say that you can combine the two terms, factory and farm….it just doesn’t work. If eggs came from a factory, we wouldn’t have different colors and sizes of them. If milk came from a factory, we wouldn’t have to bring the cows to the milking parlor 2 or 3 times per day. If meat came from a factory, every steak would be exactly the same size, tenderness, and juiciness. It just isn’t so. Besides the products, there are families who depend entirely on their farm for their livelihood. Some years are good and some years aren’t & you adjust and do the best you can. During those times of adjustment there are all kinds of emotions (very much un-factory-like) that come into play. Farm families, regardless of the size of their farm, are a special kind of people.
 
I am a member of the Nebraska Beef Council (NBC) board of directors. Recently, the NBC hosted some significant food influencers from across the U.S. These people reach 10’s of 1000’s of people via their restaurants,  t.v.,  as well as social media. None of them had extensive knowledge of a modern farm before, but all of them got to experience a day on a ranch and a day helping work at a feed yard. Each of those folks left with an entirely different perspective than they arrived with. It was really exciting for me to hear about how thoughts changed for them. Here are comments from a couple of the participants:
 
The experience was incredible and exceeded all my expectations. I had very, very little idea about how cattle are raised or all that goes into keeping them healthy and unstressed. Farmers and ranchers work very hard to make sure everything is safe and clean — not just for their animals and land but at the end of the day, for consumers, too.                                  — Bren Herrera, blogger, Flanboyanteats.com
 
I learned that farming and ranching is much more sustainable than people think. Manure is used to help fertilize corn, which becomes feedstock and the cycle goes on. Nothing is wasted. Our hosts were extremely knowledgeable about the environment.
 —   Jeffrey McClure, chef, Sodexo
 
Take a look at this blog from one of the other visitors: http://www.threedifferentdirections.com/blog/meanwhile-back-on-the-ranch.html
 
I know this post has really focussed on beef because that is what I know best. Many people have questions or concerns about pork, poultry, and dairy. I can tell you, just because a barn or housing area is large, it is NOT a factory. Again, we are dealing with living, breathing animals; we are not dealing with cold, steel machines that can be repaired when broken. Farmers do not want broken animals.  Regardless, if we have 10 or 10,000 animals, if we don’t treat them well, they won’t treat us well. It takes a special kind of person to own or work on a farm – there aren’t many of us left here in the U.S. We are a few proud folks doing our best to continually improve farming methods and products for a rapidly growing population.

Before you just jump on board with the Food Day goals, take time to visit a real farm, visit with the family that lives and works there, and form your own set of food priorities.

Happy eating!

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