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.
Excellent point, Val. I totally agree. I like to remind people that God gave us two ears and one mouth….we should listen twice as much as we talk. Unfortunately my husband hasn’t figured that out yet. 😦
Bahahaha! Debbie, I’m truly not sure that men are equipped with that ability. I know, I’m raising four more…and contrary to the best of my ability, they’re showing the same tendencies! 😉
Love love love this! Thanks for sharing.
One of our goals with this event was to bring together people from rural and urban backgrounds, and encourage relationships to grow. That mix of people from really small towns (like my hometown of 30 people), small towns, big towns, small cities and big cities gives us all a chance to learn from each other. As I said in my opening rant, relationship is our only tool.
And I forgot to say thank you! Thank you for making the trip, for sharing your story, and for being a big part of what made the event special. Thank you!
No, thank YOU, Becky…for giving people like me an opportunity to connect with others. It was an AMAZING conference, and I never expected to learn so much. It’s a GREAT tool to use, and I hope it continues for a long time. The blending of backgrounds, regions, stories, etc. was amazing to watch and participate in. As I said before, I will be taking much from my experience, and using it in the future. It was so much more than I expected. And I hope to do it again! 🙂
Although we live in different parts of the US – thank you for getting the word out. . . .it takes us all to tell the story of agriculture. . .
Val, You are a smart cookie! It is important to keep the conversation open and preaching from the soap box never seems to accomplish what you hope for.
I spent two mornings this week giving 3rd-4th grade class tours at WI World Dairy Expo…educating without offending gets our message across the best. Alice in Dairyland and the WI Milk Marketing Board gave an excellent presentation to the kids on how milk gives our bodies 9 presents in each glass…Vitamin A for good eyesite…etc. And that a 20 oz bottle of soda has 17 tsp of sugar, where chocolate milk has only 2.
It is all about relating to your audience at their level…they loved that cows get a pedicure… 😉 Hooftrimming, a healthy tossed salad from a TMR mixer, hair cut and tails fluffed for their big show. Why wouldn’t Wisconsin cows be Happy Cows!
Keep up the good work…we need more like you!
Thank you, Lori. All I do is write a few words down here and there…simple things that anyone could do. Thank you for taking the time to work with kids and give the future an insight into agriculture!
What a wonderful post! Listen, recognize and respect people’s beliefs and emotions, and make friends. And now I learned something about chickens too.
I’ve thought a lot about listening and written about it on my blog. Sorry about the men and boys not listening. It’s not that they don’t know how to listen to sports games.
Lovely bllog you have