Dear Vegans, Vegetarians, Non-GMO and Organic Supporters, and other members of the anti-conventional agriculture public,
First off let me say:
Thank you for your opinions, thank you for joining the agricultural debate, and thank you for sharing your passion about how your food is raised, just like I do. If there’s anything we can agree on, it’s that we are both passionate about what we believe in.
Now, let me introduce myself. I’m not from a traditional “farm family” that relies on farm income, but I do come from a long line of farmers. My family started raising cattle 5 or 6 years ago, after retiring from 20+ years raising show pigs for FFA projects, and we’ve grown cotton and wheat (the two main crops in my area) for years. We raise breeding cattle, meaning that our stock doesn’t go directly into the food supply, but is instead sold to other producers to breed with to improve genetic lines. Our herd is small, only around 50, and we know every single one of them. We don’t name them all, but the first cows we bought and their offspring all have nicknames.
We love our cows. I know that may be hard for you to believe, since eventually each of them will be sent to the slaughterhouse to join the food supply. However, we take our role as keepers of the cattle very seriously, and strive to ensure that they are treated with the utmost respect and care while they are in our possession. We don’t take great joy in sending cattle to slaughter, like many might think. I don’t know any farmer that secretly can’t wait to see an animal’s life end. However, it is our job, our responsibility, our duty, to make sure that you and your children have enough food to survive. I know, I know. Why can’t we just grow crops and feed the world that way? Because realistically, there is not enough space on the planet that is capable of growing crops to feed 7.3 billion people, especially not if we are not allowed to use genetically modified crops that are capable of growing more food with fewer resources. It’s easy to say that these are not issues when you can sit at your dinner table with a plate full of food. However, farmers see the devastating effects of what happens when there’s drought or disease or pests. Crops and animals lost means that much less food for a hungry person.
Crops and livestock together is the only way we can hope to feed a hungry and growing world. And we take that responsibility deadly seriously, knowing without us, the world will starve.
However, that doesn’t mean our only focus is to get as much out of every animal and every crop. We also recognize that respecting the land means that it will be able to produce fruitful crops for years to come, so we try not to overwork or overgraze fields, we put nutrients back into the soil, and we utilize technology and agricultural practices to minimize moisture loss and soil erosion. We care for the land, because without it, we are out of a job. And we care for our animals, making sure that they live as comfortably as possible while they are with us. We care for them when they are sick. And we make sure when they are sent to slaughter that it is as swift and painless as possible.
I know there are those out there who don’t care for their animals at the high standards that we should expect them to, and quite frankly, I am glad when they are called out for mistreating animals, because that should never be excused. However, I would just ask that you try not to generalize all farmers, and say we are all just like that, because my family tries very hard to care for our animals as best as we can and I would call someone out just as soon as you would if I saw them abusing their animals. I appreciate your effort to stop animal cruelty, I do, and believe that many of your hearts are in the right place. Just don’t throw my family under the bus while you do it.
At the end of the day, we are just trying to do the best we can with the resources we have to give the public the food choices they want. We care about the safety of our food because we are eating it too, and feeding it to our families. We really aren’t just a bunch of big corporations trying to make as much money as possible. The biggest cattle producers around my home area are families, with multiple generations working on the farm, trying to find success just like you are in your occupation. Please don’t think we don’t care about consumer opinions, because we do. We are consumers just like you.
I truly hope we can be friends. I think there is room for each of us at the table, each providing a unique perspective and talent that can drive the others to be better. Mr/Ms Vegan and Vegetarian, please continue to help us find the best ways to make sure our livestock are treated respectfully, while treating us, the farmer, respectfully as well. Mr/Ms Non-GMO and Organic Supporter, I know we don’t raise our animals and crops the same way, but I fully support the fact that you are reaching a group that so desperately wants your products. And I’ll be honest– I love organic milk, it’s all I buy. But I’m going to stick to my GMO cotton for now. Hopefully, between the two of us, we can meet the needs of all the consumers out there for whatever they are looking for, and we can do it together.
I’m so glad we had this talk. I know that with open dialogue about the problem areas and working together to find solutions, we can make people feel safe about what they are buying from the store, make sure the land and livestock are treated the best way possible, and continue to feed this big, amazing world.
Your friend the Ag Producer from West Texas.