Monday, January 20, 2014

Comfortable and Confident

Isn't this what a lot of us are aspiring to become?
Comfortable and confident in ____________.
Our finances.
Our marriages.
Our parenting skills.
Our physical health.
Our mental state.
Our homes.
Our career choices.
And, more specifically in regards to agriculture advocacy, our practices and lifestyle as farmers.

I have tried to be an advocate for farmers and those involved in the agricultural process, challenging us to be comfortable and confident in telling our story, in getting our faces out there, our livelihood, making ourselves real and accessible for consumers.

But to be "comfortable and confident in our place in the food chain?"


That's a concept that I never really had a grasp on, but on Saturday, I heard it, loud and clear, and it really hit home.

On Saturday, our county Farm Bureau was charged to take this up a notch.  Katie Pratt, a farm kid, farm wife, Ag Literacy Coordinator, and now one of the Faces of Farming and Ranching for USFRA, came to speak at our county's annual meeting. Katie is an Illinois girl, was a state officer for FFA, and Joe knew her "back in the day." We were excited to hear her speak, and knew she wouldn't disappoint.

And, as you can see, she didn't…as it's Monday morning, and I'm still thinking about the words she spoke.

Her charge to get comfy in my role as a "food chain" member really struck me. Food chain? Us?

Oh yeah…

I think what hit this point home so hard was that this is basic, people. This is not a fluffy sweet picture of kids in agricultural hats. This is not a sweet story about how our grain helped pay our grocery bill and for preschool and shoes for those sweet kids.

To have something as concrete as where we are in regards to the global food chain is perfect. It's simple. It's hard to argue against, but you have to be comfortable and confident in that place to keep from being defensive.

For urban consumers, this is a pretty interesting concept. The best way to relate to your farmer is to personally know them, maybe buy a quarter of a beef from them, visit their farm during harvest, etc., but that's not reality for a lot of these folks. I even consider my brother and sister-in-law in this scenario. We always feed them our beef whenever they come back to Illinois from their home in sunny southern California. However, I can't get beef to them, or vegetables from my friend Karla's garden, or sweet corn from my uncle's patch, as easily as I would wish. So, I need to figure out where we are when they head to the grocery store, and start talking about that, rather than wishing they could have some delicious rib eye steaks on an everyday basis like me. Their life isn't like mine, so why should I try to push it?

Instead, I'm going to push information. Nail down our place in the food chain and shout that, confidently, from the mountain tops. I'm going to need to do some digging on this, however. While we do not directly supply beef to a grocery store that I can stand in front of the meat case, we're there. While I don't have a grasp on all the places our corn and bean crops go to, I have some idea. I need to get basic, get simple, and make a diagram like I did in seventh grade science class, only instead of a picture of a cow or a corn plant, my family's picture needs a place in that flow chart.

This basic knowledge is an untapped, but easy concept area we as agriculturalists are missing in our plight for advocacy. Sometimes the simple things are the hardest points to get across, but I'm thankful for Katie's charge to us to keep telling our story, but once in a while, revisit our place in this world.

And maybe draw a flow chart while we're at it.


  1. Emily,

    Saw your blog reprinted in Farmweek. You are obviously serious about involvement in ag issues. So I thought you might be interested in a blog by a friend of mine at Oklahoma State, Jayson Lusk: He is the best in world IMHO at engaging the food police (his term). He also has a book that I think should be on the must read list of anyone in agriculture seriously engaging these issues:

    Scott Irwin
    University of Illinois

    PS. I take it from your posts that you and possibly your husband are Illinois grads?

    1. Thanks, Scott! I will reach out to Jayson for sure! Always good to link up with other advocates and those in touch with the "food police!" And, yes, Oskee Wow Wow...we are both proud Illini grads, maybe moreso when they're in a winning sports season...ha, ha!

  2. I really like this message; well put! Thanks for sharing. The picture in your blog header is stunning too.

  3. New fan! My husband read your Dr Oz post in "FarmWeek" and said I would like your writing. He was right! I finished reading all of them last night. I was a farm girl from Fairview where my brother and I raised suffolk sheep for 4-H so I really appreciate your cattle (frozen water) stories. Hope to meet you one day at one of the county fairs...

    Susan (Cattron) Kiser