From Friday May 25th – TK and I went for a walk today. His babysitter is enjoying a belated Mother’s Day outing, so he’s home today and my DF and I are splitting duties. We walked a bit up the logging road that goes into the woods and leads to Wheeler Mountain. It was a really nice day out. The wind was blowing through the trees and on our faces. The sun kept peeking out from behind the clouds and warming up the air. We hadn’t been up there since the talk of a mountain lion in the area in February. I decided to chance it – I learned that a mountain lion, depending upon the terrain, will roam anywhere from 25 to 500 square miles, so chances are it’s gone. Our walk was a welcome break in routine on this Friday morning.
As we made our way back, we approached the side pasture from the back side of the farm. The girls were loafing around in the trees; some were nibbling at the grass. It was a different perspective than what I’m used to with this pasture. Not anything earth shattering, just kind of neat to look at the view in a different way.
Of course that got me thinking, thus here I am writing. We’re getting pretty busy here gearing up for summer and all the things that come with it like getting fence done, making feed and other various projects. We’re also preparing for a dip in milk prices which means trying to think of ways to preserve cash flow and pay the bills. And of course there’s the overarching question of where we are headed with our farming endeavors, and all that comes with that.
Yesterday my DF shared with me that our neighbor has found someone who is potentially interested in buying his place – a house, barn and 50 acres. This is great news – he’s been trying to sell the place for a while now and there was a time when we let the idea dance in our heads for a few moments, (it’s a beautiful house!). Then though, my DF tells me that the interested party wants to do something organic and was asking something about the chemicals we have in our manure. “Oh, boy,” I thought.
It was early in the morning when my DF told me the news. He knew I wasn’t going be thrilled. It seemed a somewhat prickly question, making one wonder what other questions/hassles would be coming. But the reality is, people don’t know about modern dairy farming practices. They have a right to ask questions. It seems like people don’t trust what they don’t know. They rely an awful lot on quick information and news that often only shows one perspective of the story. This has been more and more apparent to me over the past several weeks.
I recently wrote a post about how it’s okay to buy milk from conventional farms on my friend Alice’s blog, to which a person wrote a quick rebuttal. She wasn’t arguing over the milk but rather over farming practices and it was clear to me that she already had a very biased opinion and was trying to use scientific research to support it. Where the research fell short, she added more citations as if the sum of the parts would equal the whole to support it. If you check this post out, I would direct you to the comments section, particularly the dairy farmers who commented and “Kristy” who so eloquently stated what I think many were seeing. I was thrilled to see that she took the time to point out piece by piece where the author was lacking as it seemed that was what the author wanted. “Kristy” kept up with her and was inspiring with the depth of her knowledge. It left me wanting to meet her some day!
In another example, a classmate of mine shared a book review and tried to generalize all “factory farms” as using unsustainable practices, (I would argue all farms are a sort of ‘factory’). I questioned what practices in particular, which ultimately was overuse of fertilizer leading to soil erosion and runoff. It was as if the assumption was that farmers themselves are not concerned about these issues and their detrimental effect on the environment, nearly calling those who farm on a large-scale immoral. Really? How did we get here? Why don’t these folks know about nutrient management plans, precision farming or any of the latest technology typically adopted by large farms first due to the capital investment required? Why don’t they know that farmers care first?
I think we, as farmers, know that we have to do a better job of getting our perspectives out there. And I think we’re making progress, even if it’s one day at a time, one blog post at a time, one comment at a time. I’m sharing two more links from dairy farmers in Massachusetts who took the time to speak up when they read a rather insulting, one-sided column in their local paper for Mother’s Day. One is from Nicole Fletcher, a twenty-something who is herd manager on her home farm in Southampton. The other is from Teresa Everett, a farmer who has been dairying for 31 years with her husband and family in Williamsburg. Well done, ladies. Thanks for your words and of course, for all the hard work you do.
Any thoughts on how we might consider others’ perspectives and how we might get our own out there?