Farmers must do more than ‘farm’

I remember growing up on the farm.  Our community was made up of big and small farmers, and big and small livestock producers. But it seemed everyone was blessed with only big hearts.

Just a couple of stories I recall are of helping a farmer without the right equipment (even then all equipment was expensive) after a long dry spell.  He needed help, so we just took an undercutter (to preserve the soil, moisture, and erosion by the way) to his field and worked it for him because he didn’t have one.

I recall when my Dad was thrown from a horse at planting time.  I was too young to run a tractor and planter, but the next thing I knew there were about 20 tractors and drills in our fields to get it done for us.

Just a few years ago, after a massive tornado (remember the Greensburg, Kansas tornado that leveled the town? You didn’t hear much about the farms and ranches, livestock and equipment that was blown away that same night), we went out to the farm to assess the damage.  The entire community, and others from miles away, were already there, chipping in to help in any way they could.

That’s what farmers and ranchers do other than farming.  They care for each other while they care for their animals, and the land and water they pass down from generation to generation.

But now, farmers must do more.  Though farmers and ranchers are usually a quiet and humble group, they are being forced to respond to an unprecedented attack on their livelihood from people who don’t know much, if anything, about agriculture, or who may have an agenda bent on destroying modern agriculture, both animal and crop, as we know it.

I wish those people could have been with me on the countless nights I spent in freezing weather bringing calves into warm sheds at midnight to save them from the cold, then staying up all night bottle feeding them, massaging them, calming them, and then bringing them back to their mothers to reclaim after a day or two.  Or, working constantly, even many years ago, to find better ways to farm to hold the soil in our windy state, to conserve and protect water so we could always be sure those on our land in the future could drink it, eat the crops produced from it, to scientifically and safely use inputs so we could produce safe and wholesome food for the local, national, and international market.  I’m talking about efforts in place 30-40 years ago.  Those efforts have been greatly enhanced since then.

Yet farmers now must make sure consumers know these facts.  They can no longer just expect everyone to know they care.  Some groups will use a rare action ‘caught on video’ of animal abuse, etc. and attempt to translate that action as the ‘norm.’  Farmers and ranchers know that’s not true.  But some consumers don’t.  And if the extremists have their way, more and more would be convinced that caring farmers and ranchers are really just abusing animals daily, destroying the environment, and killing people who would eat the food they produce.

Crazy?  Yes.  But unfortunately it is real.

So what’s the answer?

Farmers. You must move from the tractor seat and become an activist.  Yes, I know it’s not in your ‘rural DNA,’ but it is essential to preserve your industry and avoid damaging laws and regulations that misguided and devious opponents are trying to implement.

How do you do it?  Actually, many things can be done that are simpler than you think, and many farmers and ranchers are doing it now, with some great success.  Here are just a few ideas, and please go to the links below for more:

Work with your local newspaper or radio station
Get on Twitter
Get on Facebook
Start a blog
Clean up your farm
Make a YouTube video

There’s much, much more, from the very easy to being a major activist engaging the public about what you do.

Need help and ideas?  They’re easy to find.  Some great ideas were highlighted this week at the Rincker Law blog.  Go there for a wrap-up from a meeting on just this subject.

Also, if you’re not familiar with AgChat and the AgChat Foundation, you should be.  This foundation was created for the sole purpose of helping farmers and ranchers ‘agvocate’ for their industry.  It’s board of directors are farmers and ranchers, and those close to them and the agriculture industry.  It’s real people talking real issues.

I know when the next calf needs saved, the next farmer (or anyone else) needs assistance, and the next storm threatens to destroy a community, the farmers and ranchers will be there to help, all the while producing safe and wholesome food for everyone.  I wish that’s all they had to do.  But they must now stand up for themselves and their industry, and educate the uneducated.  If the truth can be told, consumers will be thankful that  farmers and ranchers, generation after generation, who have fed and clothed them and even fueled their vehicles, have also cared for and will continue to care for the animals, the land, and the water those farmers and ranchers call home.

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