Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from Missouri CommonGround blogger Kate Lambert. A passionate agvocate who blogs at UptownSheep.com, Lambert describes the frustration many of her fellow farmers feel when trying to convey their passion and love of farming. Why struggle in this way? Because, as you will see, Lambert and many like her deeply understand the importance of communicating with consumers.
Dear Concerned Consumer,
The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you. I shouldn’t talk about the environment, or the health of my soil – they say you do not care about those things.
They tell me not to discuss the challenge of feeding the world. I should not detail the challenges of feeding my own family on a farmer’s income, with ever rising input costs, unpredictable weather patterns and buyer preferences that change with the direction of the wind. They tell me this doesn’t register with you.
They tell me to only speak about things that directly impact you. They tell me not to talk about the science, because the emotional registers more. They tell me not to talk too long or write too much, you don’t have time.
They tell me not to get angry. But if I am honest, sometimes I do.
I get angry that you have time to read about the latest detox diets and “natural” foods, yet don’t have time to read how seed technology is increasing yields in developing nations, and helping us here at home to be better stewards of our land.
I get angry that you are willing to pay a premium, up to 60%, on a product with a label that doesn’t even mean what you think it does.
I get angry that you think “Big Agriculture” is waging some kind of war, but refuse to acknowledge the huge profits being made off those labels you are now demanding.
I get angry that you demand “chemical free” farming, or even think that “chemical free” is possible. I get angry so many of you do not seem to know what a chemical is.
I get angry that marketing hides that all types of farming – from organic to conventional – use chemicals. They do it SAFELY and minimally, but they use them.
I get angry that you do not understand that farmers only provide raw product and that once it leaves our farm we are not responsible for what the food processors do to it.
I get angry that you don’t celebrate the fact that youspend less than 10% of your disposable income on food, when people in other nations spend 40%.
I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden, to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm. If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store. If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income. If entire areas have bad crops, thousands are affected by supply and price.
I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmer’s market, who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his 8 free range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.
I get angry that you expect us to change our farming practices as frequently as you change your diet fads, and to make such changes without using any technology.
I get angry that you demand “humane treatment” of livestock without having actually ever spent time with livestock. I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle.
I get angry that you think I need to be told how to treat my animals, like PETA is going to offer some insight that years of working with and caring for these animals hasn’t already taught me.
I get angry that you want the latest and greatest gadgets in every aspect of your life, and then expect me to put on overalls and grab a pitchfork, and farm the way someone told you that your great Grandfather did in the 1940’s.
I get angry that you think it’s fair to demand farming practices match some romanticized version of an early era and are perfectly accepting of the fact these changes will take my land and water, which I now use to feed hundreds, and use it to feed only dozens.
I get angry that you give more weight to Facebook memes than actual scientific studies. I get angry that you take Food Babe’s word, who has yet to actually set foot on a modern farm and literally has no qualifications to talk about the things she does, over nearly the entire scientific community.
I get angry that you cannot tell the difference between credible science and bad science. Like the “GMO Pig Feed” study from Australia. Or the “Glyphosate toxicity” study in rats. I get angry that the real scientists even have to address claims from these studies.
I get angry that you think there is some kind of war going on in rural America. That Monsanto has enslaved us all to fight their battle, and we are too “simple” to know any better. That conventional farmers are fighting with organic farmers. That big farmers are fighting with small farmers.
I get angry you don’t actually come out to rural America and see that we are all here, like we always have been, farming side by side and eating lunch together at noon.
The marketing research tells me you won’t have read this far down. If you have, I am actually trying to apologize for my anger.
I KNOW it’s not your fault. I KNOW that modern agriculture has failed to tell our story and companies took advantage of that.
I KNOW there is a ridiculous amount of information available that is often confusing and contradictory.
I KNOW we are a generation that didn’t get the core education we need to understand science.
I KNOW that nothing sells in the media better than fear.
I KNOW that most of you don’t know a farmer and that most of you have never set foot on a farm.
I am apologizing for my anger. And I am going to continue to try and reach out, in a positive way. But I just want you to know, if my anger shows through and it feels like it’s at you, it’s not.
It’s more at myself, and my industry, for not doing a better job of explaining the truth to you sooner. And yes, you do have the RIGHT to know. I just wish you had time for the whole story.
An American Farm Wife