In my quest to be a good farmer and do something important, beyond just saying I raise animals for meat, I’ve been involved in several groups to discuss different options with many different perspectives.
One of those groups brought people together that were vegans, vegetarian, paleo and every other diet choice in between to hold open discussions with farmers from all forms of production from organic to holistic to humane to small family dairies to commercial crop farms.
In that group, I was often crucified by the vegans for even raising animals. It didn’t matter what any of us did to ensure a good life or not. I was crucified as a small farm (I’ll explain more on that in another post) by the larger farms. Eventually, I just couldn’t take the emotional beating anymore.
I was already facing so much adversity at home, in my own neighborhood and even with my own bank as a crazy hobby farmer. I decided it would be best if I didn’t get beat up anymore. I made the post about my reasons for leaving, with a special note that if anyone wanted to connect outside the group to please send me a friend’s request.
Low and behold, several people (11 to be exact) sent requests. In private messages I asked them why they decided to be “friends”. To my surprise, several wanted to learn more about my practices. It began a trend with me. A trend of documenting and sharing my experiences and the aspects others didn’t want to share.
I was fully transparent. I hide nothing. I’ve shared experiences with the recovery of a calf that got stepped on, asking for shared prayers. I still have people ask me to this day how she’s doing (3 years later!). I’ve shared my heartbreak over the lose of my first beloved cow (that still brings a tear to my eye when I think of her).
I’ve shared the loss of piglets, the mystery deaths of cattle and other hard details. My old partner would yell and scream to not share those things. That they make me look horrible.
Farming isn’t all beautiful sunsets, cute calves and perfect crops. It’s not all bad either. It’s a combination of both.
Back to my friends I made through the groups…
Needless to say, they are still listed as friends and again, they rarely comment. Tonight, one of them decided to make a comment on a difficult post about an 11 day old piglet that had been stepped on. We shall call her ML.
ML expressed that I should “Take comfort from the knowledge that, because of [you], she knew love, and warmth, and comfort in her 11 days. So many of her species don’t.”
A little thing about ML… well, ML is a vegan. A person who, according to many in Ag, is my archenemy. I’ve never felt that ML and myself are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Through various conversations, I know the reason she is a vegan is because it’s her way of demonstrating her dislike of modern practices when it comes to animals.
It’s something we both agree on in some aspects. The only way I know how to make a difference is to share what I do, good and bad alike. I show how vulnerable I am emotionally with those in my care.
ML’s comments tonight mean so much more than simple words. It’s complete understanding and her support that made my heart so full that my eyes actually leaked.
I’m not saying “follow me” or “do as I do”, but what I am saying is this….
You can’t present a valid argument for the way you farm unless you are willing to take a long, hard close look in the mirror. You also can’t expect people to ever fully trust you either if you aren’t telling your full story, the good and the bad, the things that work and the things that don’t.
You want open conversation, you have to first drop the walls you’ve constructed around yourselves. Afraid their mentality might rub off like some bio security breach of an infectious disease? Well, you know they have the same issues.
When farmers start being fully open about EVERYTHING is the day the people we connect with will see the reasoning for everything we do and vice versa.
I’m not stump speaking, I’m expressing what I’ve seen, witnessed and lived. Stop using the buzzwords. Stop reacting to outrageous slanders. Start being YOURSELF!