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Cruelty-Free Eating?

Today on my college campus, just like every day it seems, there were some random people passing out random pieces of paper that will soon end up in a trash can.

Veganism Booklet

Many of the people who spend their days giving information to people who are less than interested possess radical beliefs about controversial issues. The paper they distribute is usually an advertisement (these are the more “normal” people), or propaganda supporting their cause. Today, I got the latter – a booklet about veganism and factory farms. I would love to just brush this off, laugh at it, maybe even publish a parody version about the mistreatment of plants. However, the spread of misinformation is an ever-present problem for agriculture, and this example is no different.

I don’t doubt that some people who operate animal harvesting facilities do so inhumanely. I don’t doubt that some animals live their lives in dismal conditions – food animals or not.

However, the challenge is how reliable and timely this information is. I don’t know anything about when this booklet was published or what methods were used to acquire the photos, but I do know that other similar materials have been known to use and reuse photos and video from one example – as in, you’re seeing the same video of the same cow from 1998(ish) nearly every time a news source comes up with a scare about mad cow disease.

The booklet raises other questions, as well. Obviously, the funding for the handout came from vegan sources, and not from animal farms. A photo has been floating around Facebook in the past couple of weeks, which makes an interesting point (check out the photo to the right). I agree with one of my Facebook acquaintances who made this comment, “[This photo is] aimed at those people (most of whom have never even visited a farm/have no animal science education/consider all animals to be pets) who tend to “tell” ranchers and farmers that the way that they do things is wrong and inhumane when said ranchers and farmers have spent years and generations working with their animals and caring for them 24/7 (many even studying for years in college on animal behavior and psychology).”


This quote (left) from the booklet caught my attention as well. Although I certainly don’t agree with the manner in which this idea was presented, I must admit that I’ve wondered some of the same things. Is it possible that people in the agriculture industry are too often on the defensive, trying to prove that no one should be telling them what to do, when consumers are demanding something completely different? Perhaps we should be thinking about how to be transparent and welcoming instead of defensive and proud. I’m not sure what an ideal balance between transparency and the right of citizens to operate businesses with limited oversight – I just know that something needs to be done.

One of the last things included in the booklet, after a long description of how veganism works, was this phrase: Cruelty-Free Eating. I think that people have varying definitions of cruelty, but in general would be alright with “cruelty-free” just about anything. In fact, many farm families choose to buy their meat and other products from local sources because they know more about how the products are made, cared for, harvested, etc.

This booklet offers veganism as the only alternative to buying from “factory farms.” While much progress has been made regarding conditions in large farms (which, coincidentally, are just as likely to be family-0wned as many other farms), it is possible to reduce your support of practices that you are uncomfortable with, without giving up meat and animal byproducts altogether. You can research the companies you are giving your grocery-store purchase dollars to, and decide how you feel about them. If any of them give you a bad impression, you can choose to buy from a local meat processing business, ranch, or other farm with whose practices you are comfortable.

Maybe our best bet is to open our doors, take some photos, and produce a booklet much like this one – only with factual content and unedited photos. Perhaps if we let our voices be heard, someone will listen.

Farm Out Loud!

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Have you ever noticed how incredibly hard it is to keep up your motivation once you’ve gotten past the tough part of something?

I started moving home at Easter, and I’m so ready for my summer. I only really get a week before I’m working full time, but I plan to make the most of it, and of my weekends all summer long. Our pontoon boat and pull-behind camper are my family’s favorite place to get away to relax. We explained to someone yesterday who complained about his parents who don’t do anything that we do that too – we just prefer to go elsewhere to do nothing. It’s kind of the best – the boat anchored in a cove, a floating deck with food, drinks, music, and a little patch of shade right in the middle of our favorite swimming hole.I have just three weeks left of my first year of college, and even though I have a lot left to do – finals, projects, tests, etc – I really just want to sit down in the sun and read a good book at the campground, or possibly on the boat.

These are old photos, but they’re a pretty good representation of the five-star restaurant with rotating head chefs that exists on my grandparents’ deck at camping. Below, you see the kids table. Right, my brother and cousin chowing down dramatically, my grandpa grilling, etc.

 

 

Even once I’m working full time, though, it’s going to be a great summer. I’ll be in Jefferson City working for the Missouri Department of Agriculture as an intern, and I am so excited to find out what I’ll get to do there! I know it will be a great experience and I’ll meet some awesome people while I’m there. A bonus for my parents is that I’m working close to home – they’ll get the joy and the occasional headache that comes from me living at home this summer. I’ll also get to work some on the farm, which will begin with a crash course (hopefully not literally) in running some of the machinery so that I can actually be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on that adventure!

I’ve been listening more and more to songs with beaches and water and sunlight, so I figured I’d start putting together a playlist for boating and camping this summer.

Check it out by following the link or browsing the rdio playlist below!

What songs should I add to it to make the most epic summer playlist?

Farm Out Loud!

Eating Intelligently

I told you in my last post that in my public speaking class, we had been writing and delivering career speeches. I wrote mine about Agriculture Advocacy, or “Ag”vocacy. I’m not sure if that counts as a “career” per se, but my professor was okay with it, so I went with it.

For a little background, I am majoring in Agricultural Communications and Agricultural Education at Missouri State University (not Mizzou, in case you were wondering). My dream job is to work with professional agriculturists (farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, marketers, etc) to manage the authentic on- and off-line presence of their sector of the agriculture industry. It’s becoming more and more important to be transparent as an industry in order to build and maintain trust in our consumer base, regardless of whether we feel we are doing anything wrong. I would also love to work as an FFA Advisor, expanding the opportunities of upcoming generations of “ag”vocates, or to work for a university extension program, helping farmers to become more efficient and more knowledgeable about new findings and technologies. However, for the purpose of my speech, I went with the communications side – an advocate for agriculture.

Interested? Here it is, for your viewing pleasure: my career speech.

Eating Intelligently: Agriculture Advocates and You

According to Terrence Loose in a recent Yahoo! News article, Agriculture is the number one most useless college major. As an Agricultural Communications student at MSU, I would like to challenge that assertion. Does the agriculture industry have a significant effect on your day to day life? It is the job of agriculture advocates to serve as the voice for food and fiber producers to consumers. Agriculture advocacy is both an engaging job and a career that can truly make a difference.

First, I’ll give you an agriculture advocate’s job description, and then I’ll show you how this career is important to consumers.

Advocates for agriculture, also called public relations professionals, engage in dialogue with producers and consumers alike.

A job description might include things like:                                                 
1. Writing press releases
2. Planning corporate events
3. Making sales pitches
4. And even managing the internet presence of a business or public figure through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other sites.
Agriculture public relations is all about engagement.

It includes working with farmers to help them tell their story directly. It also involves explaining the science and technology of agriculture to a consumer base that is worldwide and largely generations removed from the family farm.

I’ve explained what an agriculture advocate might do on a daily basis and what the overall goal is for the career. Now I’d like to highlight the importance of this career in your daily consumer life.

Agriculture public relations can make a huge difference in how consumers view the companies that have a hand in food and fiber production. I asked earlier about the agriculture industry’s effect on daily life. I would contend that the industry has a significant part in day to day life. To make use of an old cliché, everyone in the world has to eat.

In fact, the relationship you have with your food and its sources is very important. It determines what you eat, where you buy, and how good you feel about what you consume. It may also determine how you vote on ballot issues.

Having a good food relationship depends on the consumer learning enough about how the food is produced, stored, shipped, and cooked to feel confident eating it.

This is where the agriculture advocate comes in. To find out about your food, you might look to a number of sources. You may check out the Food Safety page on Tyson Chicken’s website. Maybe you’ll find a news article that could open your mind to the idea of genetically optimized seed. Perhaps you’ll come across a YouTube video of a local farmer giving a tour of his cattle operation, so you choose to buy beef directly from the farm. All of these are examples of ways agriculture public relations can help consumers make informed decisions when it comes to food.

Public relations professionals in agriculture help us make decisions about our food by providing valuable content online. They also work with producers to help them show their consumer base what really happens on the farm.

The French writer Francois de La Rochefoucauld said,

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”

Will you join me in allowing agriculture advocates to help us eat intelligently?

If consumers eat intelligently, and producers continue to produce intelligently, wouldn’t we have an easier time of it? I think it will take our industry being transparent and open to questions, even when accusations are flying. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.

Farm Out Loud!

thanks to Agriculture Impressions for the factoid photos. Check them out on Etsy for more.