I had an opportunity to talk to some “urban” folk while on our trip to Hutchinson, KS, to speak at the #140Conf Small Town. It’s trips like this that make you realize just how many misconceptions are out there.
It was an eye-opening experience for me…but it’s one that I intend to relive and learn from, as often as possible.
First of all, the people at the conference weren’t necessarily “rural,” even if they were connected to a small town. And remember, the term “small town” is definitely relative. I would consider small anything less than 1,000, but that’s my experience. Some consider less than 100,000 small…I consider that a big chunk of our state!
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I was in amongst a group of people that didn’t necessarily have farm connections. And some of my conversations made that very obvious.
For example, I was speaking to a wonderful woman from New York, who loved her local farmers and local farmer’s market, considered herself a vegetarian and enjoyed getting fish and organic eggs from happy, free chickens there. (Now, she did clarify that she probably actually qualified as a “pescetarian,” or someone who eats fish.)
When I tell people about my trip, their first response tends to be, “Well, did you tell her she’s wrong?”
No. No, I did not.
First of all, we were having a wonderful conversation, and I was telling her about my farm and our cows and how we raise things here. We were listening to each other and connecting, not debating.
Second, her reasoning wasn’t scientific, it was emotional. She didn’t say that her eggs were healthier, or that cattle were evil, or that I was destroying the world. Nope, she simply said she liked her farmer’s market and she liked happy, free chickens. How could I argue with that?
I guess I could have told her that chickens that are free, are rarely happy, unless they happen to be one of the leaders of the group. I could have explained how most birds, left to their own devices, will peck and claw and scratch at the weaker, smaller birds, until the bird dies. (You realize it’s called the “pecking order” for a reason, right?) I could have explained how some farms need to put little blinders on their birds when they’re all in one pen, so that they leave each other alone and don’t kill each other. I could have, but I didn’t.
Sometimes the soapbox isn’t the place to stand. Sometimes you make better connections, better relationships and better impressions by simply listening, learning and using the knowledge gained in the future. And it’s easier to hear down in the crowd, not up on a soapbox.
And maybe, just maybe, the next time she thinks about beef and farms and happy, free chickens, she’ll remember our conversation and remember another mother, just like her, that’s doing the best to raise her children the same as her. And maybe she’ll contact me through social media and ask the questions that she has about her food.
And that’s enough for me.