Home » Archive by category "choices"

Faith, Relationships, and Food

Faith Relationships Food

As I was trying to decide how to write what was on my heart regarding all the arguments around food choices, I came across this passage which pretty much summed up what I was feeling. I would encourage you to read the whole thing, even though it’s a bit long. This version put it in everyday language, but the basic meaning matches the 3 other translations I read.

Romans 14   (The Message)

Cultivating Good Relationships

14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.

I encourage all of you to really think about how we treat our family and friends when it comes to their food choices. If we ridicule them, or shame them, or make them look bad on social media or at the coffee shop, we are not pleasing God. He knows what’s in our hearts, and certainly knows what comes out of our mouths…or keyboards. As it says in the passage above, “Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit.” Let’s work on building each other up, and showing Jesus’ love through our words and our actions.

3 Phrases Agvocates Should Lose

Agvocates do nothing from rivalry or conceit

As agvocates, we share our perspectives of agriculture from the lens of our own truth. My lens, or filters will be different from all other agvocates, because I have different experiences and my farm is different from all others. Having that diversity is awesome when it comes to agvocating, especially if the main message is a unified one: Agriculture is important in the United States, and we are blessed to have the safest, most abundant food supply, with the best choices available to fit everyone’s desires. So, if we see things through our own lens, which gives us our own truth, how do we stand united?

Over the past 18 months, I have been to many conferences where speakers and consumer researchers have told the attendees to meet their consumers on an emotional level. We need to make them feel good, and help them understand that no matter what they purchase in the grocery store they are supporting a farming or ranching family. Looking at agvocating from that perspective, I see three phrases or ideas that we should lose in order to reach our consumers on that emotional level.

Food Shaming

It’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t a person alive in North America who hasn’t felt the sting of judgement from their friends or neighbors. Heck, some of us have felt the sting of judgement from our fellow agvocates. The most popular form of judgement is food shaming. Typically, it is seen as a totally granola mom telling all her friends they have to eat only organic to “properly” raise their children. There is a lot of outrage in those instances. When a mom who feeds her kids organic gets shamed, and told that she’s just wasting her money on a marketing scheme, is that any better? There isn’t as much outrage when that happens, but to me, shaming is shaming, and it needs to stop. We will never be the trusted source of information for consumers if we are making them feel bad about their choices. Bottom line: nobody wants to feel stupid for the choices they make. We lose their trust, and they go elsewhere for their information (Peta, HSUS, etc). We need to stop shaming our consumers…and each other.

#Stand4Science

I’ll admit that this hashtag and the accompanying tweets associated with it annoy me for a couple of reasons. First, most of the tweets have a “I can’t believe you don’t know this” attitude when telling people about some study or another that proves that biotech or whatever is safe. The problem with that attitude is, we make consumers feel dumb. How many people have a science degree, or can understand what the studies are saying? We’re told when giving speeches or agvocating in public to speak at a 4th grade level…I’ve read many study abstracts, and I can tell you, they are not written at a 4th grade level! The Center for Food Integrity’s 2014 research talks a lot about this very thing. We cannot forget about the impact that emotion plays when people are deciding whether or not to trust your truth. Secondly, many of the tweets associated with this hashtag make it sound like the only science in agriculture is biotechnology. When you think about it, biotechnology is a pretty small part of the science that goes into raising a crop, even if the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton raised in North America are genetically engineered. We all need to pay attention to soil science, plant science (including weeds), pathology, animal science, and hydrology…not to mention computer science, and engineering. I know I’m missing some major ones, but you get the idea. Agriculture involves a lot of science, no matter what you grow. We just can’t assume that our consumers will “get” the science that we work with every day. Heck, I don’t understand the science that goes along with range management or animal nutrition, because I don’t ever work with that. Fortunately, I have trusted friends I can go to when I have questions. That’s what we need to be to our consumers.

Biotech is the only way to feed the world

I’ve had many great conversations about this phrase. Looking at it from an agvocating point of view, though, I think we need to lose it. As consumers, we are all a bit self centered. We want what we want when we want it. When we are making our way through the grocery store, we are not thinking about how many people in the world the average farmer is feeding. We are thinking about checking off our grocery lists, or we’re trying to remember what it is we needed as we’re being distracted by kids, neighbors who want to say hello, or the little old ladies who need help getting a bag of cat food into their cart. This message is being lost on the consumer. I don’t know about you, but I eat a pretty diverse diet. I like my cereal or eggs in the morning, but the rest of the day I’m eating a variety of meats, potatoes or rice, and vegetables. For snacks, I like fruits, or coffee. I don’t like eating the same thing all the time, because I get bored with it. There are what, nine genetically engineered crops on the market? Foods made with those crops do not make up the entirety of the average diet. We need the diversity in agriculture to make the whole system work. We celebrate diversity in every other aspect of our lives, why not in agriculture? When the whole choir only sings one note, there is no harmony. When my BLT has no L or T, it is just a bacon sandwich…but that actually doesn’t sound all that bad….

So, what should we be saying when we agvocate?

In our lenten series at church this year, our Pastor has been talking about not separating our faith from our every day life, but to treat it as we do everything else. The funny thing is, I have taken a ton of notes during his Sunday sermons lately, because they fit agvocating so well. The verse on the photo above summed up my feelings about how to agvocate effectively without running the risk of alienating other farmers or our consumers.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4”

How cool would it be if we all agvocated that way…doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

We can do this when we tell our story, since we know it better than anyone else. This also goes back to each of us having our own truth. Nobody can argue with you if you say, “On my farm, we do this…” or “On my ranch, we do that…” That is your story, and your truth. You can find things in common with your consumers if you write about things they may be able to relate to. They won’t relate to farming, but if you develop a relationship with them over a common topic, you will be their trusted source when you do write about agriculture.

I absolutely believe we can speak as a unified voice for agriculture, but it’s going to take a little change in attitude from all of us. Will you join me in supporting all of our farming and ranching families?

 

Hold The Judgement, Please!

Why do you pass judgement

Sunday’s second lesson was a doozy. Hello, conviction, guilt, and being humbled! Read the full text below. Don’t just skim it, read it.

Romans 14: 1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Yikes! Living in a society that loves to label others, and judge them based on our own standards of what is “right” and what is “wrong” is not very Christ-like, is it?

What does this mean for agriculture advocates?

Agvocating, according to those who coined the term, is about “listening to others…and connecting with those outside of agriculture.” It is about opening doors to allow for dialogue. In the post that I linked to, it also describes agtivists, and what the differences are. There is one part of agtivism that pertains to the scriptures above. Mike Haley wrote, “Individuals practicing agtivism, or agtivists’ often take offense to others with opposing views and dismiss theirs concerns about agriculture to prove their point that today’s agriculture practices must exist in order to feed the world.”  By arguing over opposing views, or dismissing their concerns about agriculture, we are passing judgement on our target audience. We are telling them that their concerns are not important, or valid; they must think like we do in order to be right. But what if they are fully convinced in their own minds that their choices are right for them and their family? Do you treat them as a brother or sister, or do you despise them and call them unsavory names in forums where you think they will not see? “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.”

I am thankful for forgiveness

Today’s gospel lesson and sermon talked about forgiveness. A few points have really stuck with me.

I am so thankful for forgiveness. Remember me talking about feeling convicted, guilty, and humbled? I know that I am forgiven. I don’t always think I deserve it, but God is merciful.

The gospel lesson and sermon also reminded me that I need to forgive. Asking forgiveness is only a part of the equation. I also need to extend forgiveness, “from my heart”. Not in word alone, but from the heart.

Matthew 18: 21-22

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Look closely at who Peter is concerned about. Another member of the church. For us, it could be a neighbor, another blogger, the customer service representative you need to have fix something, an elected official…anyone you come into contact with whether in person or online. Pastor also explained that seventy-seven times is code for infinity. We can never stop forgiving others. That is not an action that is ever done, or checked off the to-do list. The gospel lesson concluded with a parable about a slave who owed money, and whose debt was forgiven…but he turned around and punished another who owed him a lot less. When his master heard about it, this was the reply:

Matthew 18:32-35

32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Putting it all together

We should not judge others based on differences of opinion about food choices, farming choices, or lifestyle choices. Judgmental attitudes create tension, mistrust, and anger. I’m not sure any of those feelings are helpful when agvocating, or life in general. Agvocating can be done in a way that is positive, and creates conversations. That should be the goal. You don’t need to write about what your neighbor is doing, or throw others under the bus because you don’t like their choices. Sharing your own story, or using some of Ryan Goodman’s 88 blog topic ideas for agriculture bloggers are great ways to start putting positive messages out there.

There are times, however, when we will fail. We all do. Which is why we must forgive, and ask forgiveness. Seventy-seven times. To infinity, and beyond. Forgiveness heals relationships, it opens doors to friendships, and it is freeing. Walking around grumbling about who wronged you takes energy, and makes you miserable to be around. At least, that’s what my family tells me.

So, instead of looking for ways others are wrong so you can ‘set them straight’, look for ways to tell your own story. Listen to those who have a different opinion, and don’t rush to judgement. Forgive those who have hurt you, and seek the forgiveness of those you have hurt.

There is a song in our hymnal that I thought would be appropriate to close with.

In All Our Grief

Help us to put aside the angry word,

the clenching fist, the wish and will to hurt.

Teach us the way in which love best is served.

Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy,

Lord, grant us peace.

-Sylvia Dunstan

 

Related posts:

Is It Possible…Truth

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?

Loving the Good – A Challenge

Who Am I to Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

10 Takaways from AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas for AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect conference. This was a gathering of over 140 people from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. It was a wonderful mix of accents and agricultural backgrounds. I loved meeting so many awesome people in person that I have talked farming with over social media for a long time. For some, it was as if we’ve been neighbors for years.

The whole conference was centered around helping us to tell our agriculture story more effectively. We had great keynote speakers: Thom Singer opened the conference, and really fired us up. Katie Uhlaender, an Olympic skeleton athlete and rancher from Kansas gave us some things to think about while she was telling her story. Montana Logger Bruce Vincent closed the conference, telling us how important it is to get our stories out there, and lead from the front. I also attended four breakout sessions, and had the opportunity to tour North America’s largest Whole Foods, which was founded in Austin.

I like making lists to help me process my thoughts after attending inspiring conferences like this one. I thought I would share 10 takeaways with you, to help you see the conference from my perspective.

10. Agvocates are Awesome! Every single person I met was exactly how I thought they would be. We all have a passion for telling our stories, so there was never a lull in the conversations. I just wish I was able to spend more time with more people. Two days just wasn’t enough to see everyone I wanted to see!

9. Every Agvocate should attend at least 1 AgChat event. Where else can you go, see someone in person for the first time, and immediately go up to them and give them a huge hug? I swear, some of them could be my long lost relatives. This feeling of “you look so familiar” was common, even with people I wasn’t following on social media. If meeting your fellow #AgNerds isn’t enough, the training available, and the expertise amongst the AgChat Foundation board members and fellow attendees makes the whole stress of traveling worth it. I’m not a good flyer…and this was my first time booking a ticket and flying by myself. The experience was totally worth the stress!

8. The City of Austin is cool…and a lot like agriculture. This was my first time staying in Austin, and only the 2nd time I had been there at all. Austin is one of those cities that amazes me. The first night we went to an upscale foodie type restaurant, and the last night it was a taco bar. We ate at a food truck for one of our conference meals, and at our banquet we had a delicious taste of Austin. There were so many great choices, that it was hard to decide which establishment I wanted to try when given the chance. The whole area was a mix of culture, taste, music, and attitude which gave the whole city a vibe that made it one of those experiences I won’t soon forget. If you were to remove one of those elements, the city wouldn’t be as exciting. That’s where it is a lot like agriculture. We have a mix of culture, taste, attitude, and styles that gives ag a great vibe. It is necessary to have a wide range of choices for our consumers, so they can choose what part they want to experience at any given time.

7. Listening to our consumers may get uncomfortable. What does it mean to you when you hear the phrase, “We need to listen to our consumers”? We had a blogger, a journalist, and a chef who really have little to no connection to agriculture speak. The blogger was in a breakout session that I did not attend, but she has been good about participating in more Q&A online following the conference. The other two were part of a panel, along with a registered dietician who does have a connection to agriculture. The conversation got uncomfortable at times, as we heard things being said about agriculture that are completely different than what we see, and it was hard to not get really upset. We really needed to go into the situation with an open mind in order to better understand where those consumers were coming from. We aren’t really listening to our consumers if we’re busy forming rebuttals to what they say while they are speaking.

6. Our consumers are smart – they don’t need educating.  How many times have you heard…or uttered the phrase…they just need to be educated, then they’ll accept my type of farming? Many of the consumers that “need educating” are college graduates. I don’t have a college degree, so how can I imply that I am smarter than they are? That’s kind of presumptuous, isn’t it? Taking an air of superiority isn’t going to foster a relationship built on trust. As we heard from one speaker, we need to engage, not educate.

5. For every negative story, we need 6 positive stories to break even. It’s easy to see how many people are so depressed when you listen to the news. Every story is so negative. It gets to the point where you never want to watch the news again. Negativity sells. This is why it is so important to get positive agriculture stories out there. We may not see an increase in corn prices because we blogged about the new calves that were born last night, or about how a combine works, but is that the only reason to blog? We need to get so many good stories about agriculture out there that we are the first choice on search engines when someone is asking why a goat eats cans.

4. We have awesome stories. I loved a point that Bruce Vincent made. He talked about how we are not perfect, but we have great stories to tell. He also stated that, “Rural cultures need a trusted ‘human face’ to share our story…that story is yours.” How much more convincing do we need? I would love it if more farmers were tweeting or sending Facebook updates from their fields, barns, and pastures. I want to hear the stories as much as anyone. When our consumers are ready to hear, give them something to read!

3. You’ll never know when you’ll need someone in your network. This was a major point made by Thom Singer. We never know when we meet someone how they will impact our lives. I know that the people I hung out with before and after the conference have made a huge impact on me already. They are my mentors and my peers. It is important to keep up those relationships, because you never know when you might need them.

2. We cannot attack others in agriculture because they don’t do it our way. Nothing makes me upset more than agvocates putting down other agvocates because they do things differently. Why perpetuate the negative stories or assumptions when you have such an awesome positive story to tell? When agvocates let their differences take over, they lose out on relationships with some pretty darn good people.

1. Building relationships takes time and work, but it is worth it! I joined Twitter 2 years ago so I could participate in AgChat on Tuesday nights. I met some pretty fun people because of those chats, and gained a lot of new social media friends. That led to my very first AgChat conference, and regional event held in Minnesota…which ultimately led to attending the Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin. It was easy to work on those relationships, as I would encounter them regularly during chats or when posting about my farm. We were challenged by Thom Singer to work on our relationships, and be the one to reach out and say ‘hello’. Be prepared, my friends. I’m looking forward to more conversations, and building more relationships with both #AgNerds and consumers.

I’d like to thank the AgChat Foundation board for working so hard at making this conference a positive experience!

The "Bat Bridge" in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!

The “Bat Bridge” in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!

 

“People Are Just as Wonderful as Sunsets….”

CarolynCares Sunsets and People

This quote by Carl R Rogers was so fitting today. Sometimes we encounter people who drive us crazy. When we see these people in person, we just want to hurry the conversation along so we can escape and go chat with our friends. Then again, there are those conversation on social media, where you swear someone will argue with you over the color of the sky, simply because they have it in their minds that you’ll never have anything in common.

I love the opening line – “People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be.” If you let them be…wonderful. If you let them be…human. If you let them be…imperfect. They are still just as wonderful as sunsets. Just because I think a woman is going to be crabby and whining after church doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the time to really listen to what she’s saying, and what she’s not saying. Is she crabby about someone not talking to her ever because her memory is going, and she cannot remember the last conversation? Or, is it her way of saying she’s lonely?

When we’re typing rants, comments, statuses, or sharing other posts online, do we let our biases about certain people or groups of people dictate how we respond to them? For instance, if the conversation is centered around whether PB&J is better with grape jelly or strawberry jam, are the grape jelly fans going to treat the strawberry jam lovers as if they are just as wonderful as sunsets?

People are just as wonderful as sunsets. Just as every sunset is different, people are different. Don’t try so hard to change everyone to fit what you think they should be. Just sit back, and enjoy watching your relationships unfold. After all, social media is about relationships just as life is about relationships.

 

Don’t Be a Pringle – The Importance of Individuality in American Agriculture

We all read comments about how farming should be as it was in “grandpa’s” day. We need to look a certain way, or raise a variety of animals in order to be a “real family farm”.  They want us all to look the same…like Pringles.

CarolynCares Pringle

I don’t know about you, but I think that is boring! I also think it is rather foolish to insist that all farms look the same, and grow or raise the same things. My farm in Minnesota is not able to grow oranges or grapefruit. Nor are we able to raise onions or cabbage in January. On the other hand, farms in southern Texas are not able to grow field corn like we can. Climate, soil types, and rainfall are all things that affect how well certain plants are able to grow in an area.

I like to think that American agriculture is a lot like a bag of potato chips…

CarolynCares OriginalChips

When you open a bag of potato chips, there are all different sizes and shapes. The same holds true for American farms and ranches. If you look closely at the bowl of chips, you will see some that are large, some small, and some that are unique. Even though they are very different, they all taste the same. They are, after all, basically the same thing. Original flavor potato chips.

If you look at these chips as farms, there are all different sizes and shapes of farms. Some are large, some are small, and some are unique. If you put all these farmers in a room (bowl) together, you have a bunch of farmers who are farming for basically the same reasons – they love the land, they love their animals, and they want to take care of both so that they are able to pass their farm or ranch on to the next generation.

When you cruise down the snack aisle of the grocery store, there are a lot of choices between flavors, cooking method, potato type, and brand. We can look at those as being different types of farms. There are dairy farms, vegetable farms, livestock farms, crop farms…you get the idea.

I asked each member of my family what their favorite flavor of potato chip was, and they were all different. I’m pretty sure that differences in opinion within a family on how to do things on a farm or ranch is not that uncommon, either.

CarolynCares Different Flavors

This may seem overly simplistic to some, but I hope you get the idea. We need the diversity in agriculture in order for us to have the opportunity to eat a well balanced diet. A well balanced diet meaning a variety of foods eaten in moderation, not meaning a potato chip in each hand. 🙂 We need the diversity in size, in management style, in location, and we need both vegetation (crops), and animals to make our food system work as a whole. There is no one right way to farm or ranch. That should be an individual decision made by the farmers and ranchers who are on their land and tending to their animals every day.

Suddenly, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go eat a Pringle. I just won’t be one!

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 21: OATF

What? No photo? I totally failed on this one. I brought my camera along to our first Organic Advisory Task Force meeting, and I forgot to ask for a group photo.

So, what is the OATF, and why am I thankful for them?

The Organic Advisory Task Force is a group of 15 individuals from around the state of Minnesota who meet a couple of times a year to discuss the organic industry in our state. We then advise the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota on policy and research issues. The group is made up of farmers, processors, distributors, certifying agencies, University faculty, a non-profit general farm organization representing farmers, and the public.

The coolest thing about this group, besides the people, is that farmers get to hear from consumers (processors, distributors and the public) as well as the certifying agencies and the faculty, and everyone else gets to hear from the farmers. I love how we all come together with the goal of finding a consensus on the issues facing the organic industry. I am thankful for the opportunities that we have to share with each other, and the friendships that are made.

On Tuesday, the new 3 year term began. We were able to hear from a Deputy Commissioner of Ag and Deans from the University of Minnesota. We also had a chance to share what the concerns are in the area we represent. We had some really good discussions! One thing that was made clear to the Deans, is that with funding sources shrinking all the time, that they hire faculty that is friendly towards organic agriculture. We realize the importance of shared research and resources, and know that there are many research areas that benefit both organic and conventional agriculture. We are not a group of extremists that are hell bent on taking down anyone. We focus on ways to support and educate what the organic farming and food system is about.

I am thankful for all of the members of this Task Force, and I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to serve as their chair.

 

To follow other 30 Day Blog Challenge participants, click here.

Why Is It…?

My Twitter feed is increasingly making me crabby. I follow a pretty diverse group, both conventional and organic farmers, a variety of agriculture businesses, and a wide range of bloggers. Why is it that every morning, my twitter feed is clogged with more conventional farmers putting down organic agriculture? The organic farmers I follow don’t share near the non-GM stuff as what the conventional farmers are sharing. Even some people that work for groups that are supposed to support all of agriculture are sharing more anti-organic graphics. I thought that when you claim to be an “agvocate”, you would be speaking for agriculture, not pitting one method against another.

I belong to a speakers group through the Minnesota Farm Bureau called Speak for Yourself. In our training sessions, we are taught to tell our farm story through the use of Power Point presentations. We are given the opportunity to create our presentations, then give them to our class for practice. We are to focus on our farm, and not worry about what our neighbors are doing. That way, when we go out and speak to groups like a Lions Club or Rotary Club, we are putting a face on farming. We are taught to present a positive picture of agriculture, and to be a resource to those who we have shared our story. As an organic farmer, I have been able to give my presentation to a group that had quite a few Monsanto employees in it. They enjoyed the presentation because I focused on my farm, without putting any commentary about other farms into my presentation. This is proof that speaking about only my farm can bring a clear message.

Do you hear a lot of people talking about the Paleo diet, vegetarianism, veganism, the Whole30 Challenge, and other restrictive diets? Why is it that those diets are acceptable, yet people who choose to eat organic foods are called anti-science? Last time I checked, it was not advised to go on a diet that eliminates whole food groups or are too restrictive. There are many scientific articles relating to the long term viability of vegan diets, for example. If I were to follow in other farmer’s footsteps, I could post a graphic that I found on the internet. After all, whatever is on the internet has to be true, right?

A few of my friends have told people that they can go ahead and waste their money by paying extra for the organic label. Really? How is that attitude fostering a positive image of agriculture? These same people are so excited when the farmers market opens and they can finally get fresh produce. I’m sure you could get tomatoes from the grocery store for less. So what if they are a little more pale and pulpy than the organic ones, or the ones fresh from the farmers market. Sounds a little bit hypocritical to me. No wonder consumers are confused.

Speaking of consumers, I see a lot of the anti-organic graphics and studies aimed at them. Talk about mommy guilt. Conventional farmers are just as bad as organic farmers if you really look at the graphics being shared. Why is it that only the end products are looked at when people are arguing over methods? Isn’t there a grower in there somewhere that is preparing the soil, buying seeds, planting, nurturing, and harvesting? In my mind, there is a whole lot more to these systems than just the end product.

This brings me back to the whole organic farmers are anti-science statements that make me cringe. We are anti-science because we choose not to use a certain seed technology? What the heck? That is such an insult. We use science to determine what our soil profiles are, how much manure needs to be applied, how much nitrogen the corn plants are taking up, when to flame weed the corn, and what tillage methods we need to tweak. We use more technology in our tractors than most of our neighbors. So, using the same logic, we can call all farmers who don’t use GPS guidance systems and field mapping anti-technology, backwards, and old, right? Why is it that conventional farmers feel the need to call others names because they farm different? It sounds a lot like school yard bullying, and makes us all look stupid.

Why is it so hard to resist hitting the share button when you know it’s going to hurt your farming friends and neighbors?  You tell your story, I’ll tell mine, let other farmers tell theirs. When we start to tell each other’s stories, the whole agriculture message gets all mucked up, and consumers don’t know who to trust. We need to resist the temptation to post things that prove we are “right”. Who says that anyone is wrong? What is right for you will not be right for me. Even if we farmed using the same methods. Your soils, climate, personality…everything about you is different than me. That is what is awesome about being a farmer in the US. We have the freedom to farm how we like. We have the freedom to grow what we want. We have markets available to sell our products. There is so much good happening in agriculture, why is it that we feel like we need to put others down?

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” -Bono

Who am I to Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

Late last week, my Facebook and Twitter feeds blew up with farmers and consumers weighing in on Panera Bread’s new marketing campaign. My friend, Dairy Carrie, wrote this blog as an open letter to Panera Bread. So many farmers were offended by the insinuation that they are lazy for using antibiotics, that the blog post went wild. It took a few days for the CMO to contact Carrie, and she wrote about the conversation here.  I started writing a response, but was a little too hot under the collar at the level of disrespect, so I scrapped it.

One of the scripture passages that we read on Sunday kind of had me sit up a little more. I included the part that stuck out to me below:

Colssians 2:16-19 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

The last verse reminded me of this passage:

1 Corinthians 12:12-26   12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

So, what does this have to do with Panera Bread?

There have been many tweets, Facebook postings, and blogs written from all points of view. Some were nasty towards other farmer’s opinions, and some were nasty towards Panera. There also posts that invited Panera into a conversation with farmers, and posts that made you stop and think about why we had the reaction we did.

The nasty posts made me a little sad. Who are we to judge another farmer’s method of raising animals or crops. If the animals are healthy and thriving, have enough food and shelter, should we be condemning them because we prefer to raise our animals in a barn? The farmer who chooses to raise his animals as a completely antibiotic free animal for a specific market has every right to do so. Just as those who use antibiotics under a veterinarians guidance has every right to do so.

The same can be said for those who choose to grow their crops with pesticides, and those who choose to grow their crops without. Every farmer has made a choice based on what works for them and their farm. If I don’t want to buy GM sweet corn, I can buy organic sweet corn. If I don’t want to buy organic produce, I can buy conventional produce.

What the scriptures above basically say, is that we are not to judge others based on what they eat or drink. Or what church they go to. Or what celebrations they attend. The important thing is that, as Christians, we are all forgiven when we ask. We are all one body…which I think can apply to agriculture as well.

There are many parts to agriculture. There are some that are larger than others, but that doesn’t meant they are more important. Every individual has a say…and the way Dairy Carrie’s blogs were shared, there was a lot of say’in this weekend.

I also think these passages point to respecting others. While I do not sell any goods to Panera Bread, I was a frequent visitor of their Sioux Falls location. I was offended at the lack of respect they showed for both the farmer and the consumer. By telling the consumers that they, and the farmers who raise conventional chickens, are lazy if they don’t choose Panera’s antibiotic free chicken is going against Colssians 2:16. The smugness of the CMO’s response, and the failure to pull the ad campaign entirely, points to the puffed up with pride reference. Panera has so many good things going for it, they didn’t need to “go there” with this new marketing angle.

I believe that the Bible can teach us so many things about how to have effective relationships with people. Do I think Panera can still have a conversation with farmers? Absolutely. We both must come to the table realizing that we are different parts of the same body. We need to show respect and humility on both sides. Most of all, we need to stop judging people by their food or farming choices.

Burn Baby Burn! Flame Weeding Video

I rode along with Jonathan while he was flame weeding the corn. If the video doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

%d bloggers like this: