A few days ago, a close friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook, directing me to a conversation that was taking place on a specialized sheep page. The message was shocking, and laughed in the face of all we’ve been doing to educate and show consumers where their food comes from…but it was far from funny:
You are a Joke! a Fraud! you can not sell meat! What you are selling is wrong! Meat comes from the grocery store meat departments where they grow it for us to eat. You are one sick individual who says you will sell lamb meat from those cute fuzzy animals! you are gross! Milk comes in a powder that the grocery stores mix with water! Why are you lying to people! you are a sick person who claims to sell meat, milk and cheese that comes from poor helpless lambs!
And no, I can’t make stuff like that up.
So why does it matter? It’s just one loon out there, shouting lies and slinging mud at whomever will listen, right?
One of the reasons that agriculture is being slayed in the media the way it is, is that for too long we figured that people would “get it.” That they would understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and just leave us alone to get the job done.
That’s not the case any more, and I don’t think it ever will be…and shouldn’t. We want people to have a connection to their plate, we want people to understand the power of their input at the grocery store. But they also need to understand that farms are businesses, we provide a product, we need to make a profit and we prepare for the future as well.
There must be a middle ground, a place where we don’t raise our voices, don’t shake our fists and don’t make it personal…I just don’t think we’re there yet. I read a comment recently that stated that farmers need to remember that they are more than just a farm, they are people, too.
But I have to say, from a farmer’s perspective, that’s pretty hard to do. It’s not just a building and some animals, this is our heritage and our family name. It’s the work of previous generations, resting on our shoulders to see it through to the next generation. And it’s up to us to be the communicators to protect not only the future, but the history of our farms as well.
The way I see it, the fact that we’re getting responses such as the loon above, and the other slew of media backlash, must mean we’re heading the right direction.
And if we’re willing to be talking, we better be willing to listen as well.