Back when I was in high school, I was kind of a know-it-all.
I had an answer for basically everything (and for the most part that has remained unchanged). Sometimes when I look back on those days when I thought I had all the answers, I close my eyes and let the memories unfold. In most of these memories I’m wearing an FFA jacket.
In those days, I was a young FFA member just making my way in the world. My family hadn’t farmed in almost 10 years by that time, so I was hungry for any kind of agricultural knowledge that came my way.
Unfortunately, my first real taste of farming came from gravely judgmental sources such as author Michael Pollan and the film “Food, Inc.” Being the naive little thing that I was, I latched on to their ideas and made them my own. I was convinced that their way was the correct way and judged everyone else for not agreeing with me.
My unabashed faith in these ideals are what led to a few heated discussions with my FFA advisor. When you’re a teenager, you think you have all the answers. One time, she wanted me to attend the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Farm Forum because of my interest in agricultural issues.
I point blank told her, “Hell no,” and walked out the door.
Farm Bureau is seen as the face of “Big Ag” by its critics (including me at the time). I wanted no part in helping to further their cause by broadening my farm policy knowledge. Simply put, I was not going to sell out to mean, old Big Ag.
Now here I am, 20 years old, writing my first blog post for (gasp) Farm Bureau.
Some people would argue that I sold out to Big Ag and joined the dark side. Why did I switch sides? Well, I didn’t.
The “sustainable” agriculture movement is all about giving more power to the farmer. So is Farm Bureau.
Sustainable ag advocates for giving farmers of all sizes a level playing field. So does Farm Bureau.
I’m no shill for Big Ag and I didn’t sell out. I opened my eyes and realized that what works for one farm won’t necessarily work for another. You farm 12,000 acres and plant Roundup Ready Smartstax corn? I’m cool with that. You raise 25 head of British White Park beef cattle with rotational grazing and direct market your product through a co-op in a big city? Yup, I’m cool with that too.
In the end it doesn’t matter how many animals you have, how many acres you farm, or how you manage your weeds. We’re all farmers and we’re all in this together. Some can be so quick to judge each other for the way we do things, but we shouldn’t. We’re lucky to be a part of something so diverse. Instead of tearing each other down because we don’t agree on everything, we should build each other up and learn from each other.
That is something I wish more people in agriculture realized. It’s something I wish I had known in high school when I thought I knew it all.
I remember those days!