Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Extremist Agriculture

Grrrr...Katie Couric.

We stopped in our tracks, literally, amidst tinkertoy tinkering and babies crying and listened in silence as the teaser for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric came across the screen. She was reporting on the (supposed) health affects on humans when antibiotics were used in livestock.

Joe and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Seriously, it seems like the logic of good livestock management and the media clash nearly every other day. I have a friend who is a large animal vet, and he said if you ever want to see the difference and understand the benefit of the use of antibiotics on animals, visit a farm where they are not used. That will make you sick just from being around sick animals. Luckily, as I read the FarmWeek (yes, I'm trying to become agriculturally educated. . .thank you very much!) there are those who are defending the use of antibiotics, and they are making their voices heard, but it just seems to be scraping the surface.

Case in point: I was talking to a friend who didn't know we raised livestock. She was excited for me and thought we were cute and cuddly and had like goats and chickens roaming around. Now, although our new calves are pretty cute, they are part of the business we run. Period. That sounds harsh, and Joe takes great care of his animals, but they are our livelihood. There are no cute little ducks waddling through my yard or goats acting as natural lawnmowers, because as a farmer and a farm wife, we don't have time for that! More types of animals means more work, and I can't even get my husband to put up the one blind I bought three weeks ago! Seriously. . . twenty minutes, that's what the instructions say!

But I digress. . . I know I am more sensitive to farm related bad press, but it has been abundantly clear what the media's stand upon farming is, and it isn't pretty. Even on my daughter's Sesame Street show, farming is portrayed as a "Hee Haw Hobby," and not a science. The men in our operation study their yields from the previous year, soil test their fields to see if more/less fertilizer is necessary, and Joe works and works with his cattle to make sure their feed/stalk/grass consumption is a correct ratio. This afternoon I read an expert's take on the concept. His belief that the greater media had obviously researched little and speculated a lot helped me realize why Joe and I cannot stomach news reports like Katie's last week.

So, what's with the organic vs. non-organic debate? What about grass fed beef? What about free range chickens? Do I have to take a stand? I don't know the answer, and thus, don't want to be known as one of those crazy extreme farm ladies. I guess I am a little in the middle. I have loyalties to my freezer beef that, although technically is not organic, but has been cared for lovingly. I love Amelia's Yo-Baby Organic yogurt because of its high fat content, and, let's face it, cute packaging. However, there are evils to both sides. There are farmers around here who have very poor cattle management skills, and I am sure there are organic farmers who are not following the creed of organics. However, my take on it all is to be respectful and educated when making a stand. I understand my family's farming practices and would hope that instead of attacking me, a person who questions our livelihood would try to ask me questions. My hope is that in grocery stores, people would make decisions on what they eat based on what they know and understand to be best for their families. Families should choose what they want based on their own priorities, beliefs, and health needs, not Katie Couric's.

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