Pride in our Farms, Strength in our Numbers
By: Christi Slater
My husband and I have recently returned from a Farm Bureau Young Farmers Conference. While we were there, speakers Troy and Stacy Hadrick told us the importance of being an ‘Advocate for Agriculture’. They told us that there are many aspects of farming that people are simply not aware of and it is up to us, as local farmers, to speak out.
We have only been home for a few hours and I have already seen the same television commercial three times. It is for the Humane Society of the United States . Most of you have probably seen this commercial. It has those awful images of abused and neglected dogs and cats, a horse and dairy cow. It stars actress Wendi Malick asking you to give a monthly donation to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
This commercial is very disturbing, but it also paints a very untrue picture of how agriculture and, more specifically, livestock production actually operates. I found many falsities within this advertisement. One in particular that I would like to touch on was the dairy cow getting pushed with a forklift. As life goes, livestock does die. Whether it be from illness or to feed families. Pushing them around with machinery is NOT normal practice. However, the fact that we have to use machinery to move deceased animals is the truth. These cattle are massive, heavy creatures. Overweight people in nursing homes are moved with a lift system.
We care about our animals, even when we have large quantities of them. Our cattle are fed at night before we even feed our own family. We take pride in our herd. We take pride in all of our farm. It is our life. If we don’t have a healthy herd of cattle when it comes time to sell, then we don’t have money to put food on our table and clothes on our kids.
We know each one of our cattle individually. Some of them even have names...until our kids ran out of names for them. Just like children, these cattle each have their own personalities. We can tell you which one will be first to the feed bunk every night. We can tell you that ‘Red Cow’ (told you we were running out of names) likes it when you pet her right there on her head. We can tell you that every night when we feed them ‘Barb’ will nudge the other girls out of her way. While most producers don't give their cattle names, they can individualize the cattle in their herds. Whether a producer has a herd of five head or 500 head. They can stand at the gate and tell you about those cattle.
Before hearing the Hadrick’s speak I was not aware of the challenges that face all of us in the agriculture industry. The HSUS uses more than 95% of it’s budget for travel and lobbying against family farmers. None of the $19 per month that they are asking you to donate goes to your local animal shelters. They are not affiliated with local shelters or Humane Societies. Perhaps if you want your money to go to better use you should donate it directly to your local animal shelter. This is where there are kind, caring people that volunteer their time to help animals in need. Many of them are even family farmers just like you and me.
It is not just this organization that portrays us in a false manner. Family farmers need to be aware that these are the images of us that are being portrayed. More importantly, these are the images that people believe to be true about us. Let people know this is not who we are. Many people are simply not educated or aware. Get involved in your local organizations. Just join. You don’t have to sign up to be president, committee chairman or even bring a covered dish. Just become a member. Farm Bureau offers a number of opportunities to connect with other farmers and hear speakers that educate within the agriculture industry. There are also many online groups you can join that will increase your agricultural awareness. There is strength in numbers. It is not just my family that loves our livestock, land and lifestyle. It is every farmer, rancher and cattleman. Take pride in yourselves and your farms. As the saying goes, a day in the country is worth a month in town.