They say that you are never too old to learn and a few weeks ago I learned a good life lesson.
Our daughter Natalia has some cognitive disabilities and has always had a little harder time fitting in with kids her age. She is now in seventh grade at Franklin Middle School in Janesville and always wonder how she is being treated by the other kids at school. We met with the teachers at the beginning of the year and they suggested Natalia participate in some after school activities such as being a sports team manager.
The teachers did some checking and the girls swim coach, Ms. Wilson, said she would love to have Natalia help. After the first couple practices, Ms. Wilson asked if Natalia could swim with the team instead of just sitting on the side. We thought this was a great idea as it would make her feel more like part of the team. Natalia participated in one practice and then was in a swim meet the next night.
In the meet she was signed up for the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter freestyle relay. My wife Christine and I were proudly there to cheer her on for we had figured we would never get to watch her compete in school sports. When it was her time to swim, she came out wearing a flotation device and one of the biggest smiles we have ever seen. Watching her compete made us smile, but the thing that made us smile bigger was watching rest of her team standing on the side of the pool cheering Natalia on.
Natalia did not win the race but you would not have known that from her reaction or the reception she got from her teammates. I was amazed that these teenage girls selflessly went the extra mile to make someone who has not always fit in feel like she had just won Olympic gold.
Applying this story to agriculture and food processors and how they are choosing to treat their “peers” who may be a little different than themselves. Some of these companies choose to promote themselves by putting down production practices different from their own or by instilling fear in consumers through advertising that can be misleading or all around false. Advertising for antibiotic-free or hormone-free can be some of the most misleading and confusing claims for consumers to decipher. As farmers, we know that all meat and milk products being sold in our local grocery stores have been tested to ensure there are no antibiotics.
Farmers have a moral obligation to provide safe meat and milk for their family to consume as well as other families in our state, country and world.
Respecting different practices is not just a problem in a certain sector of agriculture. No one practice is better than the other and we need to support practices that may differ from our own. There is room in agriculture for all production practices and we must all work together to promote our common goal of producing safe and affordable food for consumers.
I think we all need to take a step back and maybe learn a lesson from the Franklin girls swim team. Even though someone or something is a little different, you can still cheer them on!
Thank you the team and Ms. Wilson for taking that extra step and teaching this guy a great lesson. Hopefully we can all can take something from this story. The next time you are given the chance to cheer someone else on, do it!
Doug Rebout is a partner, with his brothers, in his family’s dairy and crop farm near Janesville. He is an active Farm Bureau member and is currently serving as the Rock County Farm Bureau President. Doug is a graduate of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute. He and his wife Christine are proud parents of their daughter Natalia.