Today is National Agriculture Day. It’s being celebrated across the country, mainly by farmers who are eager to share their stories and things they’ve learned to come to appreciate.
As a farmer, I look to today as a form of Thanksgiving for all that Agriculture means to each and every person. It doesn’t matter if we are young or old, man or woman, It doesn’t matter if you are vegan or a meat eater.
Agriculture touches our lives in so many different ways! From the cotton grown to make our jeans, tshirts and sheets to the soybeans raised for tofu burgers… it’s all supplied from a farm.
The national average age of a farmer is over the age of 50. I know many that are much older and have spent their entire lives farming the land, building a life and risking it all to be able to supply goods for food, fiber and fuel. Today, I’m not going to describe the benefits that agriculture provides us. Today, I’m giving thanks to all those that have come before me. Those older generations of farmers that worked hard and still do.
Agriculture is and always will be the backbone of our culture. Agriculture is what built this country and I will forever be grateful for each and every lesson that has been passed down from generation to generation. Agriculture is rooted in the passion, drive and dedication of the many who live, work and die on the farm.
The beginning clip of the video below shows an elder man who says “Farmering is my way of life and I enjoy it. It’s a good life.” Today, instead of discussing advancements in scientific technical progression or all those material goods… Let’s celebrate the men and women who have given so much for the “good life”.
Thank you to:
Harry and Martha Liddington
Josephine Dyer Cooper
Though you may all be in heaven now, we were blessed to have learned so much from you during our formative years!
Special Thanks to:
Jim and Kate Barrows
Art and Peggy Diekow
We may not always see eye to eye but we are thankful to have had your guidance and assistance over the years! We’ve both been blessed to have y’all in our lives. Farm family strong!
I’ve written up a post before about the Image of Agriculture (following the link to read more about how farms and ranches can “dress for success”). Now, I want to utilize some stuff that I’ve just learned in a Social Psychology class.
I’m going to transpose an excerpt from the book “Social Psychology” by David G. Myers. (This book is utilized within the course as a form of a textbook and contains lots of great information)
“…Research reveals that it is surprisingly difficult to demolish a falsehood, once the person conjures up a rationale for it. Each experiment first implanted a belief, either by proclaiming it to be true or by showing the participants some anecdotal evidence. Then the participants were asked to explain why it is true. Finally, the researchers totally discredited the initial information by telling the participants the truth: The information was manufactured for the experiment, and half the participants in the experiment had received opposite information. Nevertheless, the new belief survived approximately 75% intact, presumably because the participants still retained their invented explanations for the belief. This phenomenon, called belief perseverance, shows that beliefs can grow their own legs and survive discrediting of the evidence that inspired them.”
I want to point out here why this is important to agriculture. It’s important due to the power of persuasion used in advertising and marketing campaigns. Some of you are already aware of the fear tactics used by food companies pitting one style of farming against another (ie: the great GMO debate and Organic vs Conventional). These fear tactics play on our emotions and health concerns. *As an FYI, I’m not taking sides here, I’m just looking at the tactics and impacts*
How do these powers of persuasion in advertising and media affect our behaviors and beliefs? Here’s how! Let’s use the example of this image below.
As a mother, the first thing I notice in this image is the toxic sign to the left of the image and the brown sky. Second thing I notice is the no spray zone and the sun shining in the blue sky. As a farmer, this is a polarized image with zero fact based information.
How does this clip use the power of persuasion with fear appeals? Well, that type of farming to left appears to be dirty (brown sky) and toxic (the sign). It looks unhealthy even with the corn growing exactly the same as the right image. The type of farming on the right shows me a beautiful landscape with sunny blue skies and the idealist image of what we would all want farms in our neighborhoods to be. See that little logo at the top, with the “join the New MacDonald Movement”, well that gives us a directive to what to do as the next step if we “fear for our environment”.
Here’s the funny thing. The New MacDonald is the OLD MACDONALD! It’s the image of what we all think as consumers of what we want farms to look like. It’s the image we’ve seen our entire lives as we’ve driven past farms in rural areas. To be honest, I’ve never once witnessed huge puffs of pesticides bigger than the clouds in the sky. I’ve never once seen green soils in corn fields. I’ve never once witness a brown, dirty sky (other than a dust bowl which I’ve never physically witness, just to clarify).
This image is very polarizing and untrue. Now, let’s see some reactions if this was done in real time with real people. (Pay close attention to the reactions in the audience, staged or not they still impact us with a power of persuasion)
Say you are a farmer now that sits on the other side of the fence. You aren’t organic, yet you aren’t a conventional farmer either (like me, by the way). I know you will find these images and tactics rather disturbing. I’m sure you noticed that NOT ONCE was there any factual information that discussed any type of real environmental impacts, crop yields, or hell, even a tractor (not one? How can this be?)
Peripheral routes to persuasion are one’s that makes us feel good and making us “feel good” about let’s say choosing Organic based products is saving the environment, creating a better life for animals and giving us the perspective of all those farms we pass by on road trips. While in reality, some organic farms aren’t any different than what’s deemed a conventional farm. Yet after many view this imagery, they associate a feeling of bad and negative to any farmer not carrying the organic label.
Why is this bad for all of us? Let’s go back to the quote at the top about belief perseverance. If ten people see this image for the first time and believe the center line of demarcation, all farmers that are not organic are deemed as bad, untrustworthy and uncaring. Even when these 10 people are presented with fact based information and many times know farmers they can talk too (either in person or via social media), 7.5 people will still hold the belief that it’s organics only from now on.
Now, I want all of you folks that are non-organic believers to step back for just two seconds and put on your thinking cap. Haven’t some of us done the same thing? How many are sitting there right now thinking about where their beliefs come from that GMO’s are good or that spraying pesticides are okay for the environment? With the sheer number of farmers that are generational farmers, I will lay money on the table (that I don’t have to spare) that you use the systems you do because your dad did it and everything turned out okay. Some will say that they have read the research and they are confident in their belief. How can you be when for every pro scientific study their is one that contradicts the findings?
Many of us will immediately jump on the band wagon to refute claims, as I did above. Here’s the issue with counter arguing: If you aren’t convincing enough in your counter appeal, all you do is build resistance against your viewpoints. It’s called attitude inoculation and very much like immunizing someone with a low dose vaccine. The more you argue, the higher the vaccine and the more resistant the opposing side becomes.
Why is all this important in today’s world of agriculture? It’s important because to be FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED. We live in a world today full of available outlets and inlets for information. Just be aware that everywhere we look someone is trying to persuade us to their side. I think Myer’s had some good advice for everyone to use, farmer or consumer, it doesn’t matter….
“To be persuasive, you have to stimulate people’s thinking. stimulating thinking makes strong messages stronger and weak messages less persuasive.” (Myers, D. Part 3 Social Influence, Social Psychology, p. 180.)
What we think of a message is crucial. That’s where our beliefs come in, but don’t argue your case unless you have all your counter arguments lined up and are prepared to have the case you’re making not result in immunization of the recipient. Second, if you are going to make your case…. make it first. I’ve said before (and I’m going to continue expressing it) that you need to be proactive, not reactive.
You have to get people’s undivided attention, present your case (with facts preferably) and keep repeating your message.
What’s my message in all this? I just want people, all of us, to sit back and think about the arguments we all have over food production. Some of us know and understand that it takes all of us and that many farmers make the best decisions they can based on the information and circumstances in front of them. Let’s stop focusing so much on peripheral and subliminal advertising and start communicating with each other directly. Today’s farmers are much more available than ever before. The diversity of farmers on Twitter alone is staggering and they are from all regions in the world.
Communication between the producer and consumer are crucial to the future. All of us have the same goals in mind for the future: Safe, healthy and nutritious food for everyone. Can we stop throwing up prison fences around one production form over another? No one wants to climb chain link fence to get ripped to shreds by razor wire. Each side does it too. Stop demonizing others for their choices, hold open discussions, everyone ask each other questions. Take the power back to make your own educated decisions, not just follow along because someone told you to.
I’m hoping this gives everyone as much food for thought as it did me. Please feel free to comment, add remarks, whatever.
The past is nothing more than pages written in our book of life. The future is still unwritten (I think those are lyrics to a song). As the pages develop, chapters start and end. Each new page contains another memory.
Barrows Farm has a big, thick book already. To tell the tale will take some time but, eventually I hope to put it all together. There are stories like the family history within the deed. A deed that contains pages dated all the way back to 1850. A deed that contains information on parcels that go all the way back to the Boston Ten Townships purchase. 165 years of heritage contained within those papers, written and documented history of Barrows Farm.
In more recent years, there are stories about farm owners and livestock that bring a smile and shared laughter among the family, tales of buggy rides to Syracuse and how a young man worked with his Grandfather and eventually took over on the farm.
Not all the memories are happy ones. There are tales of government buyouts and the end of a dairy here. There are tales of barn and house fires. Many things have changed over the years, mainly with the last owners occupation. It’s hard to express the hardships that have been endured. Granted, I haven’t been here for the majority of them.
I’ve lived here for ten years and I love this place as much as this family does. Someday, I really hope to be able to have the time to sit with Rich’s parents to document some of the history. Even if it’s only ever to just put together to share with the family for future generations. I think it’s something important to be passed down throughout the years, from generation to the next.
As I sit here with this thought rolling in my head, I’m also saddened that it won’t be passed down to the next owner within the family. After so much that has gone on here since 2008, I’m devastated. I can’t even imagine the thoughts rolling in Rich’s head. Having been on or around the farm his entire life, it has to yank a piece of his heart out to make decisions like selling. Eventually though, when push comes to shove, self preservation takes over.
I’ve talked with others about concerns over farmers committing suicide because of these types of decisions, lack of funds and severe depression. In my way, I’m trying to explain how hard it is to lose a piece of yourself at times like this. Farmers who have worked the land, watched it grow and change have an affinity for the property that is unparalleled. They put their heart and soul into every piece of hay, every head of livestock, every grain of soil and every drop of water. Farmers love their farms like parents love their children.
To farmers, our farm is our legacy. It’s our book of life that we have written the pages for. Failures or success, risks and rewards, it’s all in there. Our pages might not be written over the years on paper, but they are written on our hearts, our souls and within each detail we find on the farm. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of farm it is, how big or how small. It’s just the way it is for farmers.
I live in a farming community. On the rolling hills of what I call home, I can travel up to our back field and look across the valley. I can see hay and corn fields. I can see barns and silos in every direction.
I can’t even start listing off all of the active working farms within a 5 mile radius. Little farms like me with just one milk cow but a diversity of animals and big commercial dairies that have about 1500 milking head.
There are times, like during harvest season, that some of us will work together to get crops in but generally speaking we all keep to ourselves. That is, until someone needs help. Time and time again, I have seen this community pull together to help others. From one farm to another it may be helping get equipment pulled out of a muddy location or handling one or two milkings due to an injury.
We might have some new modern equipment but this area still reminds me of what communities were like when I was growing up. At harvest time, the families all pitch in together to get the job done. The wives cooked big meals to share with the crew. We worked from sun up til sun down. We all knew that no matter what the issue, help was just a phone call away.
I am proud to say I know that I have my neighbors support if I need it. Of course they have mine too, no matter what.
Things are just done differently out here in rural USA. We don’t expect to receive pay for the help we offer…mainly because someday you know you are going to need the assistance back. We don’t call tow trucks for break downs. We call the neighbor (usually a farmer). We plow out each others driveways when (and if) it snows. Sometimes the big dairy will come in with his big equipment when the snow is too deep.
That’s just how it seems to work around here. And I don’t think any of us would change that for the world.