Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in Animal Science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. He is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.
First impressions are critical when it comes to forming opinions; unfortunately, they do not always convey the entire story. Modern farming faces this problem, as most farmers have remained quiet and allowed animal and food activists to talk about modern agriculture. I think more people should allow farmers to be a part of this conversation.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I grew up in an Arkansas farm family on a cattle ranch where we had our way of raising animals. I realized there is more to the story of ranching, so I embraced opportunities for education by working with cattle ranchers in Oklahoma and Tennessee, raising cattle for natural beef marketing in Wyoming, and working in several Texas feedlots. These experiences have broadened my skill set and perspective of raising cattle. However, that is not where the learning ends.
I have also explored learning opportunities from the other side of the story. Groups like Mercy for Animals, Humane Society of the United States, and PETA often publish undercover videos depicting scenes of animal cruelty and abuse. These videos are uncomfortable to watch, but I watch them because it is how they choose to present farming.
I also seek out others' opinions through books and online literature. I own and have read material by food activists like Michael Pollan, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Joel Salatin, because I know they view things differently than I do, and I care to know why they believe what they do. Acknowledging these differences and learning to understand them is a part of a more balanced education.
My readers asked great questions in response to my last article and it is great to see a conversation starting. However, some readers were critical of my message, claiming it was propaganda because it only shared a portion of the story. The latter group missed a prime opportunity to ask a farmer questions.
Growing food is a process that occurs over the course of months and even years, constantly evolving and responding to customer demands. Farming methods are far too complex to describe in just one post. These are things best learned over the course of time and require engaging in a dialogue.
Farmers are reaching out to engage in these conversations with their customers. Although most live miles away from urban areas, farmers are embracing social media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos, and even blogging to share their story of food production with you, their customer.
There are many farmers blogging about what cattle eat at dairies in California and Wisconsin, on beef farms, on grass pasture, or in feedlots. Farmers detail the growing season for a number of crops including corn, wheat, and cotton. There are discussions of different farming methods, including organics, heirlooms, and GMOs.
Farmers know a lot about our food products, the business of farming and caring for the environment. They answer questions about animal welfare, hormones in your milk supply, talk about the contracts with businesses like Monsanto, and describe their decisions to use antibiotics in livestock or the latest plant breeding technologies. If you have questions, there is a farmer somewhere willing to answer from their own experience.
If you have questions about where your food comes from, I encourage you to ask. Follow the farmers' blogs mentioned above. Subscribe to their updates, connect with them on Twitter with the hashtag #agchat, listen to their side of the story, and engage in a conversation. Maybe we can meet in the middle and move forward for the sake of our country's food supply.
Spend some time with these forward-thinking farmers:
U.S. Farmers and Ranchers: Food Dialogues
The Adventures of Dairy Carrie
Slow Money Farm
IA Farm Wife
Pearl Snaps' Ponderings
Gilmer Dairy: The Dairyman's Blog
The Farmer's Life
The Meat of the Issues
Common Sense Agriculture
Got questions? We'll try to get you some answers. Leave your questions in the comments below, and we'll do our best to get a farmer to share some insight.
Previously - No bull – what a farmer wants you to know about how beef gets to your plate and Five sustainable lessons from a family farm
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Well Ryan from one VOL to another. Thanks for at least getting some word out. It is sad how little the general public knows or wants to know about their food these days. They would rather someone tell them what happens as opposed to going out and researching themselves, and no I don't mean getting on PETA, HSUS, or whoevers website and looking it up. Nobody is going to take a trip out to the middle of the US in 100 degree weather to get facts straight. Oh well its just how it is I guess. OH Yeah GO VOLS!!!!!
If we were atheists, this wouldn't be happening
grew up in a farming community – mostly crops, some beef. I worked bailing hay and hand spraying 80 acre fields with round up to kill thistle. FFA was a proud organization at our K-12 school.
Days like today I remember the sunshine, the intense heat and the gallons of water both taken in and put out dripping on the wagon.
Wouldn't trade those memories for anything.
"Not only does it not answer the question. it makes me question ANYTHING you have to say" was a reply to kitcosper.
As a child I grew up in the concrete jungle of Houston Tx. I visited every summer with family in Mississippi.Grandmother had a full scale garden, pigs, and chickens. A short walk through the woods my uncle had ten acres of farmland and only a hand pump for well water that I diligently pumped buckets full and made trip after trip to water the butter beans, and purple hull peas. Oh I wished for a garden hose but carrying all those buckets built muscle and character. I learned to persevere because in my young mind I imagined I was any one of those plants sitting baking under the hot sun and thirsty for a drink. I put myself in the place of each those plants and I kept on. My third summer it was incredibly hot with a heat wave. I'd listened to my Uncle around the kitchen table that morning over flapjacks and coffee lament having to go work at his real job off the farm and it was a shame he couldn't harvest the cotton. I waited for the family to get their day started, leaving a note I'd be at 'the old place' which we called the farm and set off down the trail passing the 'aunt oaks' whose story was they were haunted trees. I hurried on past them but slowed down to peer off into the overgrowth at an abandoned junker model T just off the trail. I hustled on slapping at a cloud of mosquitos to step from trail into the expanse of the old place. I barely gave the bee hives a look knowing to stay away from them. I hunted for the cotton plants. Way down there towards the end of rows stood spindly dried out sticks. This seemed likely I jogged down there in the full-on heat. Sure enough above those sticks were pods showing white fluff. I touched and the fluff felt like cotton to me. You see I didn't have a clue about farming really or what to do I just knew my Uncle needed help. I had only pillow cases from grandma's linen closet to use for sacks. I got busy breaking off those cotton bolls to stuff the pillow cases full, and fuller, crushing down to ever stuff more in.The sun was dissapearing behind the trees when I heard the unmistakable sound of my Uncles old beat up 1960's era truck. He was coming in planning to pick cotton for the remainder of daylight. I waved to him from the distant end rows and pointed off towards the small one room shack who's deep front porch looked like a laundry stacked with every pillowcase I could get my hands on. I met him as he climbed out of the truck. I, the twelve year old child, red faced with severe sunburn had spent all the day harvesting every bit of the cotton. My old Uncle the sort of man who never showed emotion sat down on a sackfull of cotton to cry. I planted my boney but on his knee to hug his neck.
I never did learn what became of the cotton I picked but I learned life-long lessons that summer. I'm 43 now and have my own backyard garden burgeoning with tomatos. I bought a pack of cotton seed I planned to plant but once I'd gotten the tomatos, hot peppers, collard greens, onions, carrots, parsley, lettuce, bell peppers and the assortment of herbs into my square I had ran out of room to plant the token cotton. Maybe next year.
Priceless memories. Thank you for sharing them!
Thank you for sharing such a lovely memory, and with such beautiful writing! I felt like i was there, and can only imagine how much your uncle appreciated your help and caring
I would like to personally thank you Ryan for bringing this information to everyone's attention., I am Thankful for all the hard work that all of the farmers do for me in this great county that God has blessed us with. Yes farmers do work hard and become very tired, but always think of the smile on my face and the millions of others that do take time to smell the roses and appreciate farmers, and are grateful to have substance to eat. I often thank God for the people that farm, alone with the doctors nurses store clerks, mechanics etc.We all have a job to do, so lets just make it better and not complain, that's what makes the world go around. You are what makes life worth living. Yes the food is tampered with and that's sad. Hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel once people stand up against the tyrant puppetician bureaucrats that causes change. I personally see a change in the way most people are eating, they are reading labels more than ever. No one wants chemicals in there system. Too many people are coming up with diseases such as cancer, and there is a reason for it. You are on the right road. Keep communicating that helps make everyone aware of what you understand already. Keep up the good work.
Great read! Trying to talk common sense to people is a life-long challenge. For me, I try to learn how to grow or raise, whatever on my little plot by listening or watching. I need to become a sponge.
Robert we would welcome a virtual visit and questions. Small areas are challenging to work with but not impossible. It can, in some ways, be an advantage. For example we have a heritage tomato area that is about 4×16 – it's planted more intensively than most could do on 20 or 200 acres! When the heat blazed, it was easier to keep ours irrigated for ours. Making use of raised beds, compost bins, and other small scale things is more than just scaling up or down from larger farms.
Don't give up! There are free resources out there if you're determined to learn. Keep pushing! :-)
I help my best friend on his Ranch where he raises Black Angus Cattle. He is a Rancher not a Farmer, learned up here in Montana there is a difference, never call a Rancher a Farmer. I was raised on a farm down in Oklahoma. I enjoy going out to help with the daily chores of feeding the cattle and fixing the fence line. During calving it is something different everyday. I do it because I enjoy it. I know where my beef comes from and I enjoy the life helping them with the chores.
People need to realize that while the percentage of money in the Farm Bill that actually goes to farmers is small, the biggest percent of that money goes to big operations. The Farm Bill that just came out of the Senate focuses on subsidies to crop insurance. Not one operation will be prevented from buying crop insurance without the subsidy, they will just have to pay the full premium instead of around half like it is set up now. The operations that need crop insurance the most are the big aggressive operations that are out bidding smaller farmers for ground and putting them out of business. Like most government programs the bulk of the money goes to a relatively small number of huge operators. Call your congressman today and tell them not to support any farm bill that doesn't put a cap, ideally a very low one on the amount of subsidy any one operator can get for crop insurance.
I take a lot of risks every time I put a seed in the ground, somehow however our family has made the right choices and weathered through the periods of rough weather and times of poor agriculture economies. Things have changed since my great great grandfather started farming this ground, one poor year and I could lose everything that past generations have worked so hard to provide for our family. Personally I could live without most of the subsidies, but crop insurance is the best tool my family has to help prevent a total loss if something horrible happens on our farm (very well could happen this year with the drought). Yes it's subsidized and I only have to pay half of my premium, this does two things 1) it allows us to be able to afford to pay for crop insurance as it is expensive due to the high risk involved and 2) because it's subsidized the government gets to mandate how the program is run, this keeps the companies from tweaking the insurance in ways that would be unfair to farmers.
My family has worked hard to build our farm up to what it is today, our soil is in the best shape it ever has been. I would hate for poor policy combined with devastating disasters beyond my control to prevent me from handing the family farm over to the next generation some day.
Great blog Ryan and I love the back and forth. Grew up with family on both sides farming crop & cattle in CA. Times have changed though.
I would encourage farmers to fight big agribusiness by continuing to differentiate their meats as free range & compassionately killed. Consumers will pay more for this healthier, humane meat and will increase the margins to the farmer. Big agribusiness competes on volume, not quality. Do something different and you will benefit as well as your animals.
Many will say they won't consumers won't pay more. Tell that to Starbucks. If you would have told Folgers back in the 80's that consumers would one day pay $3-$4 per cup of coffee they would have laughed too.
Great post and I agree. True, the average consumer might not pay more for "healthy and humane" meats- but there's a pretty large market of people who will (myself included) Oh yeah, and be sure it tastes real good too.
Some may pay the price, but many won't. That said (and while we'd personally benefit from such marketing) I don't market with such terms because it's left to what *you* think it means. If that doesn't match what I do then you may feel lied to. Some maintain there is no humane slaughter. Some think only indoor is best and others think outdoor production is.
Bottom line, your food choices enable us to do what we love to do. There's 308 million people eating three times a day, and when you choose smaller or niche farmers that makes a big difference for that operation. There are reasons the costs may be higher, and it's not all marketing. As a smaller operation I appreciate those making food choices, but sure don't want to eliminate the choices for others and we can't grow enough for everyone! Thank you for your comments – some food for thought!! (no pun intended! ~ Jan
I had the luxury of growing up as the son of a poor farm hand and it was the best thing I ever had (only I didn't know it then). I'm 35 now, working in the tech industry and I can't count the number of times I've been at my computer or sitting in meetings wishing for anything to be back in the mow or wagon stacking hay. But, the simple truth is, that hard work just isn't valued nowadays and there's no way I'd be able to afford the life I can live today w/out having family land passed down to me. Agriculture's getting a raw deal in this day and age and it's sad to see so many barns dying and decaying in the countryside. Special thanks goes out to those who can keep their businesses going and extra special respect to those who keep our farmers markets stocked with the freshest and oddest varieties of fruits and veggies!
Have you ever been to a farm?
I have top-tier Comcast for when I get the urge to go "explore nature".
Forty-seven minutes in front of the Travel Channel, National Geographic or whatever they call The Nashville Network nowadays –
or in front of any number of Wife Swap type shows – including the one they did where a massively-overweight 5th Avenue Jewish lawyer man traded places with a farmer in Buford Mississippi –
– is usually PLENTY to cure me of whatever urge I may get to commune with the (rapping) Grass and Trees and Chirping Birds and Basket Weavers Sit and Smile and Twiddle their Thumbs and Toes Oho Ehe Aha where Life is Beautiful All the Time....
Here is a question..
Will the farmers that you appear to speak for EVER stop obsessing about the whole 1% of proselytizing vegans?
This continued obsession borders on sociopathy.
99% of the peeps ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS.
This number has remained relatively unchanged FOR YEARS AND YEARS.
The only other profession which enjoys such an overwhelming customer percentage is the undertaker.
WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?
Everyone who eats is a customer unless growing everything themselves which very few do. Be it vegan, vegetarian, omnivore – it's all food choices. What people choose as their own food choices is up to them. Demanding others do the same is something else, but everyone has food choices.
What does this comment have to do with my question?
Everything. You said 99% of people are customers. 100% of people eat, so 100% are customers, no matter what they eat. Vegans are customers too. No matter what food someone chooses to eat someone grew it. You're pointing out farmers see vegans badly, presumably because they don't eat animal products. Agriculture isn't just animal agriculture. Our raised bed gardens, tomatoes etc serve vegans too...so as a customer vegans are no different, just different choices.
Clearly that's not the reaction you wanted either. Have a great day anyway.
Not only does it not answer the question. it makes me question ANYTHING you have to say.
Vegetable farmers are not spending gazillions of dollars to hire PT wanks to whack the Humane Society.
At least I hope they are not that stupid.
No one will ever answer my question.
Thats' PR 'wanks...need more coffee
The Humane Society of the United States and PeTA are hell-bent on animal rights, not animal welfare. Two drastically different concepts. HSUS hires flocks of lawyers to eradicate raising livestock and keeping pets, they DO NOT run the local shelters and place unwanted pets. So, when the HSUS and PeTA quit trying to put livestock farmers out of business they'll stop hiring PR firms to fight back. The people who send their $20 per month to HSUS aren't helping stray animals, they're paying for more lawyers. According to their 2010 IRS Form 990 they spent less than 1% of their budget on animal shelters. Check out humanewatch.org for some enlightening information. That may not directly answer your question, but hopefully it provides some explanation.
The obsession, as you call it has more to do with the way big media people jump on the vegan bandwagon. Yes, vegans represent a tiny percent of the consumer population but if all you knew came from listiening to the nightly news and cable shows you would think it was 50% and that they had sound science to back them up and farmers were the cause of every health problem known to man. This is the first time in years I have seen a news organization give a farmer the chance to state his case without editorializing against every point and not giving the pro-farmer side a chance to respond. Three cheers for CNN!
I'm neither a farmer nor a vegan. I've never seen this pro-vegan bias you are talking about. If anything they are widely derided since their spokespeople are largely unlikeable zealots. Don't make yourself a victim in your own head.
So now you are obsessed with 'the media'
That is really original.
Regardless of 'the media' 99% of the country continues to be your customers.
What difference do 'vegans' and 'the media' make when that is your customer base?
I do not believe you are thinking clearly or rationally.
Actually 3% of the US is vegetarian but more importantly among young people (8-18) the number is 8%. That is a huge trend. The number in the 70% was 1%.
Terry, I don't think Ryan is obsessing over a few vegans who have loud voices trying to force their views on the rest of society. What I think he is asking is to have a more open conversation between farmers and their end customers. I agree with you that some individuals get caught up in some of the extreme messages, why at times they do need addresses it's not where most of the conversation about food can take place.
I personally think that the video's that PETA and HSUS show are only portraying a small portion of America's farmers, I have no problem with this as long as the conversation with those who watch these videos goes further and farmers themselves have a chance to connect and share their personal animal husbandry practices.
Mike, you know very well that I am not the enemy.
I have said a bazillion times that when you (meaning the general 'you) babble nonsense like 'the elimination of agriculture' or 'everyone will be forced to be vegan" you succeed at NOTHING other than causing people to look away in disbelief, or ignore you entirely.
I have been at this a very long time as you well know.
And for a very long time ... other than me and the MINISCULE number proselytizing vegan zealots who believe cows are 'not part of nature'...you have been preaching to your own choir ONLY,
The average consumer ignores these 'blogs' unless they come around to whack you.
Has it not occurred to you that you MIGHT be doing something wrong?
So here is what you HAVE managed to accomplish:
No matter who I am, what I know, what my experience is:
If I support the HSUS I am stupid and clueless.
If I support the HSUS I am a proselytizing vegan... therefore stupid and clueless
If I support the HSUS and am NOT a vegan 'my goal is to abolish animal agriculture' which means my goal is to starve myself to death therefore I am stupid and clueless.
If I support the HSUS 'I don't know where my food comes from' so I think my steak originates in Wegman's basement therefore iI am stupid and clueless.
If I question ANYTHING you do I am stupid and clueless.
If I do not fall to my knees at the altar of your 'truth' I am stupid and clueless.
And a 'liar; and a 'troll' and an hysteric and a 'domestic terrorist',,,,
Maybe you can point me to ONE other profession that whacks it's customers with such joyful abandon.
Somebody...as I have said ad nauseam... slept through public relations class.
Amen Terry, generalizations hurt everyone involved. Know that I know you were not talking about Ryan I understand your viewpoint.
I wonder where vegans think their tofu and soy milk come from?
i make mine from my garden. all of us are farmers, we just choose to outsource our farming needs to a third party.
Had a family member commit suicide, he was a farmer and the stress of bad weather, crop insurance, expenses, etc. became too much. His death ended 130 year of farming history for my family. We need to support our farmers w/more than words...
Sorry for your loss. :-(
"How they choose to present farming" could mean that PETA, etc., only shows the worst of the worst. They will never show animals being treated humanely. It's not in their best interests. Doesn't further their cause. So, if you're only getting your information on modern farming from their videos, you're only getting their extreme point of view.
So true and I think that's why folks like Ryan are compelled to show the other side of farming, The side they see everyday on their farms and the farms of their neighbors. Reality isn't what is shown in videos that so frequently get news coverage, that is why Ryan's having a chance to speak on this blog is so fantastic. He's reaching folks who may not question the motives of those groups.
Thanks designgoddess, you defintitely said well what I wanted to get at. A balanced education definitely makes conversation more productive.
Don't take PETA seriously. They have a "Kill Van" that they kill cats and dogs in that they're suppose to be adopting out.
I'm a vegan animal rights supporter and I'll admit that the movement presents shocking imagery. However, I'd like to explain why you should not dismiss these shocking videos as merely illustrations of "the worst of the worst".
1) Sometimes the videos show routine violence. The most gut-wrenching animal rights video I have ever watched is the Agriprocessors (Iowa) orthodox slaughter investigation. It doesn't show a few cases of aberrational conduct – it shows cow after cow encased in a giant metal straitjacket, cut in the throat while fully conscious, blood literally gushing out of their throat, and then dumped onto the floor where they struggle in complete terror to get away while slipping on their blood with their throats hanging out and eventually succumbing to death. Why should you care? Because this routine but extremely inhumane method of slaughter is specifically exempt from the requirements of the Humane Slaughter Act because it is kosher. Watch the video. Support a change in the law.
2) Even if the video shows unusually cruel conduct (e.g., a violent worker smashing a pig\'s head in with a cinder block), there is still value in publicizing the investigation. Why? Because even "the worst of the worst" is oftentimes not penalized by the government. Many states exempt farm animals from animal cruelty protection. After watching these videos you should realize that this exemption is unjust and support a change in the law. Even when the law arguably prohibits such conduct, it is very rare for the local prosecutor or government agency to get involved and penalize the wrongdoer. Is this the kind of society you want to live in?
3) Do you know where your meat came from or what kind of life the animal lived? Animal welfare for farm animals is severely under regulated. Animal cruelty laws usually offer little or no protection. Government officials are not concerned with cruelty on farms. Industrial agriculture is concerned with making a profit – it's their fidicuiary duty to investors to put profits ahead of all else!
You do know that Agriprocessors was a KOSHER operation, don't you? And you do know that "kosher" is a religious dietary standard? And do you realize that there are very strict rules as to how slaughter and processing must be conducted to truly be "kosher"? If you do know all this, then you know that – by kosher law – the animals are not, in fact cannot, be 'stunned' prior to having their throats cut. Both kosher and halal slaughter methods require this.
This practice is only "routine" – and legal – if following one of these religious standards, and these practices aren't "routine" at all, in terms of frequency.
Severely underregulated? The list of regulations from EPA, the Labor Department, the Department of Agriculture as well as states and counties has a lot to do with why most small farms quit feeding livestock, leaving essentially the whole industry in the hands of huge operations run by hourly employees that are much less likely to be concerned about the welfare of the animals than a family famer that often would live just a few hundred feet from his animals. Every single one of these videos that the PETAs of the world produces comes from one of these operations. I have never seen or heard of a single one that came from small or medium size family run and operated farm.
Google "backyard slaughter investigation".
Small farmers are a dwindling percentage of the meat market anyway.
More importantly, our goal is not to impose veganism. Although many of us are vegans and encourage vegan diets, not everyone at animal groups supports this goal. We are united in asking society to merely support more humane laws and stricter enforcement. That proposition strikes me as uncontroversial. And it explains why small farmers usually aren't targeted - conditions at small family farms are relatively decent.
Although I'm an omnivore, I am someone who strongly believes in animal welfare. I definitely agree with some of the points you make others I disagree with though.
I absolutely think that we need to get more people thinking about where their food came from. People should respect the fact that meat comes from animals. We should carefully consider what we eat. We should absolutely minimize any waste. We should look at ways to improve food production.
The videos that are aired about animal abuse are meant to be inflammatory and to engage people emotionally. I don't think the groups behind them are honest about their objectives either. And while I think that some of the videos capture what was happening, I truly think that those are not by and large representative of the way most farmers and farmhands treat the livestock they are responsible for. That all leads to people coming to the wrong conclusion.
I know a lot of farmers. I've been on their farms, have met their families, have had dinner with them. I've seen farmers move into turbo when something goes wrong with an animal. That's when the true spirit of American farmers and ranchers can be seen. They go the extra mile, day or night, to care for their livestock. I have seen it and although not every farmer in the US meets that standard, they are the norm and the ones who abuse their animals are the exception.
You mention laws and an "exception" for farm animals. In fact, what I've seen is that the laws that protect animals from abuse apply to both pets and livestock. There are simply not livestock specific laws on the books in a lot of places and that should not shelter anyone who's abusing animals. And whether a farmer notices something amiss, or the local butcher, or a neighboring farmer, we should all feel the responsibility of reporting abuse. I don't necessarily think having more government will help us get to a better spot - it certainly hasn't helped in lots of other areas.
I've written a few blog posts on the topic of animal welfare videos if you'd like to further understand my perspective.
So what was your position on Prop B in Missouri?
I actually didn't live in Missouri then so while I know what farming friends thought of it at the time, I never did the research myself to develop a position since I was focused on Tennnessee matters.
"what farming friends thought of it at the time" was to spend a bazillion dollars decimating Prop B, claiming, among other cr-p, that my pets are some farmer's livestock.
Thus creating a bazillion enemies of companion animal lovers who before Prop B NEVER gave a thought to farmers.
And we will not forget.
It will be a long time before that damage is repaired...if ever.
Thank you for the rational dialogue. I recommend checking out a law review article called "Foxes in the Henhouse". It focuses on the systemic absence of animal cruelty protection for farm animals. It also cites laws from the 35 states that have customary agricultural exemptions from the cruelty code. It's a very important read for anyone who cares about the issue (which should be, at a minimum, anyone who eats meat):
Christopher, I would encourage you to take a look at what Ohio has done to create animal care standards. In 2009, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. This 13-member board is chaired by the Ohio Director of Agriculture and is made up of farmers, consumers, veterinarians, university researchers, and local humane society representatives. The board has created species-specific standards that are based on sound science. They also oversee investigations into potential violations and administer penalties as necessary. This model has worked very well in Ohio as it allows us to continually work to maximize animal welfare in a manner that produces safe, affordable, and abundant food. I would encourage you to visit the board's website to learn more about the board and the standards that they have created: http://ohiolivestockcarestandardsboard.gov/.
What do you think the biggest pressures facing a farmer are these days. Other than perception? Have you ever worked on a ranch where you didn't like their practices?
You're likely to get a variety of answers here. :-) Two questions you asked: "What do you think the biggest pressures facing a farmer are these days. Other than perception?" Pressures are many! Drought and heat have been a burden to many the last few weeks especially. Weather, finances, reduced income that won't come in. If animals or crops are lost, there is no income because they can't be sold. With no income there are still expenses to cover – not only ongoing but starting one more time. This is true whether it's 100 chicks or 15,000 turkeys – the size of the farm doesn't change basics but can increase the numbers. Consumer demand and honest communication is needed. When we ask questions back to get views and exchange information some say it's resisting/defending. At the same time, most are eager to find better ways to do something, but if we've already tried suggestions given (and it failed) then why would we want to do it again? Example – we're small scale enough to do outdoor things. A few years ago tried hatching with hens...small hatches, and what did hatch had a 100% mortality rate...either dogs predators, accidents etc. The world is a dangerous place when you're 2 inches tall. This year we have a new brooder that allows the outdoor view while eliminating the hazards of dogs, flooding, drowning, etc – and while we lost a few (which unfortunately can happen even in the best of times) most have made it to go to the outdoor pens happy and healthy. Big difference as dead birds don't mean progress or income. I'm sure there will be some criticize the use of the brooders – but they protect the chicks and keep them alive! That is our goal, whether it's a new heritage breed foundation we're raising or chicks from our own hens they have to survive!
"Have you ever worked on a ranch where you didn't like their practices?" YES!! And I've talked about that in my blog page. They may have had reasons for the way it was done, but I strongly disagreed with it. There were several operations I've worked for that I didn't feel had the best interests of the animals at heart. I don't share that view. I have ceased working in the horse industry until it comes a point we get land to do so on our own terms, because of the practices of too many folks I ran across that were hard on horses and people. I used that disagreement with their practices to form my own – to offer an alternative that people can choose or not. If people want outdoor, low cost, organic, common sense or other food choices, there are farmers out here with similar views eager to serve you. At the same time small places can't serve thousands (let alone millions) and be small. But yes, disagreement with former employers is something that isn't that uncommon I'd venture to guess. It has been the case with me personally.
Appreciate the chance to talk about these things! ~ Jan
Thanks for your response. I can't imagine surviving a farmers work day. Not just the labor, but the stress. Good luck.
Way to go Ryan!
All the farmers I know are happy to explain their way of farming. Got a question or concern, just ask!
First, we have to address your statement, "Groups like Mercy for Animals, Humane Society of the United States, and PETA often publish undercover videos depicting scenes of animal cruelty and abuse. These videos are uncomfortable to watch, but I watch them because it is how they choose to present farming." You make it sound like the above orgs are creating the extraordinarily cruel goings-on at some of these animal farms. They present these videos because the actions depicted therein are morally wrong. The abuses by a significant amount of animal farmers and slaughterhouses is long documented and well-known. So these above orgs present morally reprehensible behavior to viewers that are largely unaware and wouldn't approve that sort of thing in their community. Secondly, you state, "Modern farming faces this problem, as most farmers have remained quiet and allowed animal and food activists to talk about modern agriculture. I think more people should allow farmers to be a part of this conversation." You directly contradict yourself, saying farmers have remained silent on one hand, and then saying people should allow them to talk. You then go on to editorialize as if farmers have been marginalized. No one is stifling the voice of the farmer. Farmers are adults and can speak up in the public forum whenever they want. But he fact is, the farming community is fractured, the family farm is dying, and the corporations that have insuinated themselves into our agricultural economy aren't really interested in talking about how they grow our food. Otherwise, you'd see commercials touting the great taste of GMO-grown vegetables...
Eric how are these abuses a "significant amount" and "long documented and well-known." Because it's repeated? Because there are organizations out there who want to eliminate any animal agriculture no mattter how the animals are cared for and it's repeated often enough so therefore "everyone knows"? With all due respect, if we followed *anyone* around for weeks, videotape rolling, and put it into a one minute clip there is almost no one who won't look horrible. That does not represent the majority who *do* care for their animals.
With all due respect, if it was a better way why aren't these groups SHOWING how it should be done to raise animals humanely and market at a profit? Is it because they don't believe in using any animals for any reason (thus the "go vegan" messages, not "support humane farmers" because in their view there is none_?
Agriculture folks have stuck to their comfort zone raising food for generations. While we were doing that, as Ryan indicated, others wrongly described what we were doing. I have actually been told, over the last 20-30 years, that no one cares how food is raised.
When Food Inc first came out there were many forums held online for people to discuss food. Remember that repeated line about farmers being afraid to talk? Well several showed up eager to share experiences and the truth about what happens in our lives. I was one, and directly heard that we were spamming the conversation! I'd say that's pretty much a shut down – never mind real farmers and those with agriculture experience – the directors selling a movie know more?! When we're *trying* to talk to people and being told it doesn't matter, then criticized for being "afraid to talk" what room is there?
Fortunately, like many I don't give up easily. I think it *is* a conversation we need to have and I *am* interested, providing it doesn't endanger my animals. Yes there are dangers that many don't seem to understand. I think if we can find ways to minimize those dangers and increase production and animal comfort there are many farmers interested in hearing it!
" But he fact is, the farming community is fractured, the family farm is dying, and the corporations that have insinuated themselves into our agricultural economy aren't really interested in talking about how they grow our food." Again whose facts? The majority of farms out here are family farms. 98% statistically is hardly dying. I have been told directly by consumers they don't care how the food got on the store shelves – if they can afford it and convenience is important. That is backed up by action. There are others who DO care and *do* make food choices...and for those it allows other farms the options of filling those choices. But if one side or the other doesn't engage to discuss, or is shut out of the conversation, then it doesn't move forward. Both end up unhappy.
Who is going to allow anyone to 'eliminate agriculture.'?
What extraordinary nonsense.
I thought this was a serious blog..
Guess I was wrong.
Nice try at twisting the meaning Terry. :-) What I said was "organizations out there who want to eliminate any animal agriculture" – whether they will or not, doesn't change that they want to, based on their statements at the end of the videos. But you know that, you've seen them too. :-) Thankfully, the majority of Americans exercise their food choices and much of that includes animal agriculture. So I don't know that they'll succeed in elimination but it doesn't change the goals of some to go vegan, which then, yes, eliminates animal agriculture. You thought this was a serious blog – I thought this was a serious question. Perception means much.
Have a great day, whatever your food choices.
Who cares what they want to do if it will never happen?
This kind of prattle is what makes ANY of your arguments untrustworthy.
Eric, thanks for the comment and you bring up some good points.
Why can't there be another side to the story? Just because they show those scenes of abuse and cruelty, why does it have to paint an impression for the rest of the industry? I do not and have never condoned the abuse of livestock animals whether I'm on my family farm or in a feedlot. These animals should be treated with respect, like the living creatures they are. I do not know how the folks stood by and taped those situations without immediately intervening. People have proved that some cruelty videos from animal right's groups have been staged for the emotional sell to the audience. They're often narrated to tell the audience what message they should hear, effectively being able to turn any situation into a negative image. I'm asking that you connect with the farmers listed about and those in your area so that you may hear how the majority of farming occurs. At least hear them out.
Do you think farmers have been set aside in the conversation? Turn on any mainstream conversation about food, and who's involved? A food critic or celebrity. Entertainment sells. It's not likely to be the person directly involved in growing that food – the farmer who knows most about what happens from hands-on experience. Food activists have been much louder than farmers in the conversation. I've been shut out of many conversations while trying to share a farmer's perspective because first impressions were different from my story, and the people didn't want to believe those stories from food activists can be misleading. So yes, I believe there is a need to ask that farmers be allowed to be part of the conversation.
For example, you told me "abuses by a significant amount of animal farmers and slaughterhouses is long documented and well-known." Was that from experience watching these videos and stories documenting these cases or traveling to a great number of farms to experience it? You could have asked how I feel about animal abuse, asked if I've ever witnessed abuse, or how it is I treat animals. Unfortunately, that is how many non-farm Americans approach the conversation, with opinions made from first impressions, and it's harder for farmers to tell our side of the story.
Who needs farmers. All we are is a bunch of dead-bead, lazy, filthy loons. Some of us sporting big goofy hats that work all of our dreaded lives sacrificing time with those we love only to be condemned.
The weeds are getting bigger as are some folks pocket books. Bugs are getting stronger too. Vegetables aren't as nutritious as they once were and the meat does not even taste the same. Not to metion the salt and sugar laden foods we're all being presented with. We need more hormones, antibiotics and chemicals! Just to "keep up".
It should come as no surprise that fewer and fewer people want to participate in the business. I know why. It's a dirty, thankless job that's seemingly unimportant and particularly unappealing. Then the wind blows, it hails, floods, freezes or crops get burned up in the scorching heat. And then there's the insurance issues, regulators, banksters and everything else.
It's legalized gambling that's what it is! $$$
Darn stright, my boots are muddy. I appologize for getting your floor a little messed up. I did my best to tidy them up a bit prior to my entry into your establishment to get this donut and caffiene. This go I failed to bring along the spare clean pair and the sign says "no shoes no service." While I'm at it here, my appologies for going a little slow the other day along the road holding ya up. And also for shaking my head after I had to swerve suddenly to avoid accidentally sending a piece of my machinery through the windshield of your speedster which could have potentially proved fatal. Don't be running those stop signs! Just a suggestion. Being a tractor jockey is tricky sometimes....do NOT pass on the right!!!
Not all agriculture folks are bad boys and girls. Most the time we attempt to do the right things despite the "challenges" and challenge of not being understood. I'm sure that you can appreciate this.
Ignorance is a forgivable offense. Knowing better and not doing so is quite another issue. At this juncture of this life, I'm understanding that there's a lot to be said for less being more. It's hard to convince money addicts this, of coarse. It's a tough thing to negotiating change that's for sure. On occasion there is stubbornes in this regard.
Adjustments can be made at any juncture if we so choose.
Pleanty of shade for Sunshine. "Shine" for short. She's the mare we sprinkle the water a little closer with the irrigation pivot to keep her trees watered and the ground just a little cooler this time of year.
All we have to do is love the crop and with a few hurdles, cartwheels and bumps along the way most the time the love comes back. At least enough to keep us moving forward. What more could we ask for or expect. It's important for all of us to consider that we reap what we sew.
Hey, I better get to feeding a couple of my supervisors before bed and splash in some fresh water for them. Thanks for listening.
Whining is unattractive in adults.
We will only move forward when we realize and acknowledge that farming is the most important occupation in the world, bar none. We can live without everything but food and water. We also have to realize that feeding 300 million people and supplying the variety of food found in our grocery stores is an incredible achievement that is balanced on a knifes edge. Dealing with droughts, floods, insects, and disease makes farming a perilous pursuit and is totally underappreciated and mostly thankless. I grew up on a farm and live in a city so appreciate both worlds. All I can say is THANK YOU to the people who supply our food!!!
Thank you for your comment – and for your food choices that lets someone out there supply it. Everyone has and makes choices...and it allows everyone from urban and microfarms to large operations choices in filling those choices.
Great to see so many farmers reaching out online. I really appreciate your willingness to seek a balanced view regarding food and food production. Ryan, I hope to read more from you in the future.
Great to see so many farmers reaching out online. I also really appreciate your willingness to seek a balanced view regarding food and food production. Ryan, I hope to read more from you in the future.
I'd be happy to talk to any and all farmers who look like this hunk!!
This cattleman is just one man. There are many like him. There are women, too. U.S. farmers and ranchers provide us with the food and fiber to survive. Thank you, Ryan, and others who do what you do to produce the food that feeds us and fiber that clothes and houses us.
Love, hug, or high-five a farmer or rancher near you. Don't matter if they operate big, medium, or small American farms.
Just show 'em some love please!
I wrote a blog post earlier this week about Ryan being a social media hero but the reason he is one is he's such a great guy. Grounded by his family's farm and earnestly interested in hearing about what others think and know. I'm so pumped he's on eatocracy cause he's exactly the kind of person who can offer expertise in this area that is of such great interest to so many of us who didn't grow up on farms but have a real passion around them.
Thank you Ryan for linking to our blog. We enjoy the variety of heritage breeds and welcome those interested in food choices. I would be pretty boring if we all were just the same! Food choices allow farm choices, and I think consumers have far more choices than many seem to think. :-)
I once went to a farm and asked a farmer which cows had the best tasting beef
He told me "The sexy ones"
I enjoyed reading this Ryan, Thanks for sharing and linking to our blog!
My father was a vet for cattle and horses, I spent a lot of time on farms and racetracks when I was a kid. I saw first hand the brutality, there are a lot of sick people who work around animals. I don't think it's fair to describe the videos from animal welfare organizations as "it's how they choose to present farming". Those farms are responsible for their actions don't blame those organizations for videotaping it. They are doing a good thing. An educated public is the only way positive changes will happen. Look at pink slime, people found out about it and decided they didn't want it. Consumers should know what is in their food and where it came from. I use sites like cornucopia to try to educate myself, I will also check out the ones from this article.
Lola, I agree with you. Any instance of abuse is 100% unacceptable. That being said many of these videos show things that may look bad, are in fact not abusive and are appropriate actions for the situation. I went through a video that was put out there by animal rights organization and explained what was going on. Check it out if you are interested. The last thing I want is anyone abusing animals. Not only is it horrible, it leaves a huge mark on my industry and hurts even the best of farmers.
Whoops! http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/07/03/no-bull-start-a-conversation-with-a-farmer/ Here is the link.
Whoops again. Here is the correct link... I was obviously a little tired last night.
Great job Ryan! So proud of how you're working to give a voice to the farmers of our country who work so hard to feed the nation, and the world and how you hear others points of view and are respectful to those who do not see eye to eye with you. Keep up the good work!
Well done, Ryan. This farmer loves having conversations with those who don't farm. The main reason being I've lived and/or worked on a farm my whole life. I wouldn't trade that for anything, but it can make it difficult to perceive what the rest of the population thinks about agriculture. It's good to hear from another perspective.
When you get outside of cities almost everyone at least knows some farmer and many people are even realted to one.
I think Ryan should be a regular contributor to Eatocracy. He is very dedicated to educating consumers about their food.
Agree. CNN, you'd be wise to lasso this cowboy as a contributor before someone else does. He's dedicated, well-respected among peers, and knowledgeable.
I work at a farm one day a week–in exchange for eggs and vegetables. The rest of the time I'm a pharmacist. It is a good contrast. Knowing where one's food originates is essential.
What an interesting perspective Erika! Do you see a connection between food choices people make and prescriptions? How about in comparison to those not customers?
Thank you Ryan for linking to our blog. Your list is a very diverse group of quality farmers and ranchers.
I graduated from Okla State as well, and disagree with Mr. Goodman's statement that the abuse videos presented by PETA, etc., are how they view farming. They are simply bringing to light disgusting practices of corporate farming. No right-minded rancher (ranchers have cattle, farmers grow crops) would allow his cows to be treated that way. There are enough cattle, pigs, and chickens in the US such that omnivorous humans could eat plentifully but, at the same time, free range of the animals could be provided.
Don't you think we all bring our own perspective to a video, post or comment? If we don't show our perspective whose are we showing? So they say his is one farm or do they say all farms are like this? Those things to underscore perspective and how something is presented – any of us can just speak from what we know to be true. If those videos are all that someone sees, that certainly doesn't represent all as we don't treat our animals that way!
@Rich- This whole corporate farm thing is largely a myth. There are a small handful of large corporations out there engaged in various types of farming, but overall, the fact that many family farms are organized as a corporation or some other entity does not automatically mean they lose their ethics in terms of treatment of their animals or the environment. Many family farms are organized as C or S Corporations. It still might be a farmer and his or her spouse. It might be a father and son, or father and multiple sons or daughters, for example. They organize this way for various reasons including, but not limited to, 1) liability risk mitigation, 2) smoother transfer of ownership to the next generation, 3) other types of long-term estate planning, or 4) tax reasons. All in all, it's called good smart business. They still have the same passion for treating animals the right way while providing a safe, affordable, and tasty food supply. That's just reality, period.
Everyone is so afraid of "corporate" or "mega" farms. There are large operations out there, yes, but you might be surprised to find that they are still owned and operated by a family, too. I'm not saying they don't exist, but the ones that do are few and far between. Chances are the meat you are eating as you ate tonight or any other day originated from a family farm of some kind.
And by the way, allowing these animals to go "free range" will not result in an abundant, nor safe food supply. You want animals to be treated well? Yet you say let them run in the wild, essentially? Ever watch Nat Geo when a cheetah kills a wildebeest? Or if disease spreads throughout the herd. Disease that can be passed on in the meat? I mean, think about it for a bit before flocking to that bandwagon. Go back and read the comments on Ryan's first post! Lots of information in there from hands-on, everyday small farmers and ranchers.
wow! what a dumb comment.
so since on nat geo i have seen where sharks attack other animals in the ocean I will never go in the ocean or I will never fly since they have a show on air disasters. thanks for the argument. i will never get in a car again because i have seen a car accident before.
there is a posting board on Nickelodeon. you would do better there with your poor logic.
Great article Ryan, keep up the good work in informing others. We are proud of you.
What a great idea.
I used to work on a beef farm and you could buy a whole freezer full of meet directly from the, They would send your animal directly to the abattoir and then you pick it up.
Whutsa Farm ?
Don't feed grains to meat animals. It wrecks fatty acid composition by concentrating omega-6 fats at the expense of omega-3's.
Americans, and probably Westerners in general, are already consuming massive amounts - 20 to 40 times what is required - of omega-6's through the consumption of vegetable oil-laden processed foods. They are seriously inflammatory when ingested in these quantities, and promote a wide range of chronic illnesses.
Hi Rel, I have heard several claims about higher omega 3 concentrations in cattle fed 100% hay and grass. This may have a lot of truth to it, however what I have been able to find is that the difference is very little between grass finished beef and grain fed. From what I understand eating a single serving of fish would be equal to the amount of omega 3 fatty acids I would consume if I switched my eating habits from grain finished to grass finished for an entire year. If you have any other information that may help me better understand your point please pass it along!
There are several reasons why individuals may wish to eat grass fed beef that may hold more credibility than the omega 3 argument, most importantly would be personal choice.I personally enjoy the taste and texture of grain finished beef, that and I am limited on the amount of resources on my farm and cannot possibly find enough grass to allow that many steers to graze, therefore I leave the grass pastures for our cows and calves to graze and finish our steers on grain.
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