Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rancher Respect

So, This is going to be one of those posts I've warned you about. 
Because....Its MY BLOG.
Plus.... This is something I feel VERRY passionately about!

First, I must refresh your memory...

We haven't always been Wierd Ranchers.  I was raised on a small acreage with Quarter Horses, & Honey was raised with a small cattle herd.  We are both formally educated at Iowa State University with degrees in Animal Science.  After college, I worked in the sales field for a large health insurance agency & Honey persued careers in the cattle industry.  He managed the shipping department at Hawkeye Breeders for several years.  After that he became the manager of a large (1550 head) cow-calf operation.  So we KNOW conventional.  In addition over the past 10 years we've had about 100 of our own cows & anywhere from 30 to 300 Custom cows (we managed other people's cows). I only remind you of this information so you'll remember that we KNOW conventional.  And, now..... we're wierd.  We run our ranch UN-conventionally.

This, my friends, is where the dichotomy lies.

Many un-conventional producers; organic, grass based, natural etc.  feel that it is part of their sales or informational tactics to put down conventional production methods.  Some un-conventional producers think that consumers need to understand that conventional production methods are BAD. 

And some conventional producers, go out of their way to say that un-conventional (organic, grass-based, natural or free range) methods are bad or not good enough.

THIS FRUSTRATES ME!!! (~yes, I know I just screamed, it frustrates me THAT much)

As the saying goes, Why can't we just get along???

I know that there are some conventional producers that need to improve their farms.  I know of some un-conventional producers that need to improve the conditions for their animals too.  They're both working to get better.  I don't like ANY conditions that aren't optimal.  But heck, we've experienced times when we'd LOVE to improve the circumstances or environment.

I think I heard that right now, only 2% of our population are farmers or ranchers.  I believe that about 2% of our population is vegetarian.  Now, remember this post is about respect.  We need to make sure that we (meat producers) don't put down meat production in general; because there is an option (vegetarianism) that will allow those alienated people to show they don't want to deal with bad or negative meat circumstances.

We as farmers & ranchers NEED to stick together!  We NEED to respect that there are MANY different ways to raise animals & vegetables.  There are good ways, better ways, & the best ways. 

But, you know what? Good, Better & Best are all OPINIONS!  It is an opinion that one way is better than another.  Because we all have different preferences.  I may prefer to have animal choices in food at the top of my list.  You may have profit at the top of your list so you can stay in business.  I may choose to only feed grass to my ruminants, you may choose to feed a more diverse diet.  I may choose to let my chickens run around our entire ranch, you may choose to have some in a coop.  I could go on & on, but you get the drift, we are all different, because we are inately different people.

As far as "proof" that one way or another is "better", well, you can "prove" anything.  And, you can find anything that may serve as proof for your opinion on the internet too.  Numberous studies prove & disprove nearly everything there is to debate in agriculture (& life in general).

What I BELIEVE we all need to remember is:
That we're all people
We all have families
As American Farmers & Ranchers, we are raising the healthiest, safest food on the planet (the US has the lowest rates of food borne diseases)
We are all trying to be a little better each day & improve our operations
We all (almost all) have limited budgets & we have to work within those budgets
We are all aware that what we DO effects and affects our land and environment

We ALL need to remember that each time we talk negatively about someone, we are in-turn hurting our OWN farm or ranch.

Just as I type this, I'm aware that if I speak negatively about vegetarians in general, I'm putting down a very wonderful friend.  If you think about putting down or disparaging another style of farming or ranching, you MUST realize that you are directly putting down a PERSON and a family.  I know that we all think or are trying to do something "better", but we must NOT prosper at the cost of another's harm.

We CAN do better without putting down another style.

So, if your unconventional THINK about what you say.  THINK about the positives of your operation without saying anything negative about anyone (or thing) else.  When we are promoting ourselves, we need to promote ALL agriculture.  We should just choose to talk about how WE do things.  About why we do these things.

Lest you think I'm throwing stones in a glass house, I'm not.  I KNOW that I'm not perfect.  I was recently showed how I was talking negatives (even when I was trying NOT to) by the reaction on someone's face.  Because, he KNEW the person I was inadvertently putting down.

Please, please, please, we ALL NEED TO GET ALONG!

THINK about what you are saying, and THINK about who you are really affecting with your negative comments.  I encourage you to vote about agriculture 3 times each day.  Each time you pick up your cup, spoon, or fork; T.H.I.N.K. about what you're choosing.  I hope you're choosing healthy american raised food!!! 

And just so you know.  This is my original (un-edited) version.  I made 3 revisions to this post, but decided to let my raw thoughts be broadcast for all to read, because if we don't already know it, I'm as blunt & honest as it gets in real life.



  1. If you didn't feel as passionately about what you do, why do it? You two are definitely bucking the trend - but hey! If the market likes you and you are a success (and by success I mean being able to make a living and enjoy your lives), who is to say what methods are right or wrong?

    Just because Tyson, Cargill, etc. want beef cattle a certain way doesn't mean it is the only way. I say more power to ya, and don't let the defenders of the True Faith In Cattle Production get you down.

    But, I think you'd agree that cattle ranchers as a whole are a pretty dyed in the wool crowd, and do not prefer change. Even if their processes have been altered over the years so that even they have changed, whether it's recognized or not.

    It is pioneers such as yourselves who find new ways to meet the demands of burgeoning new markets and refresh the whole industry.

    So, yeah, if I see someone who lives on soymilk and other similar products, far be it from me to criticize their choice of food products. It helps the soybean industry to have people who can stand to consume that stuff, and do so with relish.

    Good rant and well spoken.

  2. As always, very well put Shanen!

    Definately a very sad truth about our society judging in all realms of life's choices for our families. Whether its comparing businesses in the same field, medical choices, religion, politics, & even life-styles in general. Who are we to judge what someone else deems fit? Who are we to say they are right or wrong? Who are we to say our way is better than anyone else's? Is that what we want our children to see? That 'our way' is the only way? When did it become our job or privilege to judge others?

    When I hear someone putting someone else's choices down I think less of the person speaking NOT of the person they are putting down. Even if my original opinion was not very good I am now more interested in learning why they do what they do & less interested in the speaker, their beliefs & their actions.

    Shouldn't we all just be over the moon thrilled & appreciative that we live in America where we are ALLOWED to make choices different from our neighbor? To be ALLOWED to try something different to try to improve our lives, better ourselves for our family & our children?

    Rather than dragging someone eles's name thru the mud- shouldn't we try to do something better in & for our own lives & workings? I can think of no better way to spend that energy than being a better person for ourselves & our families & resisting the urge to feed on the negative energy that is created when putting another down?

    sorry, I know this jumps around a bit but you started this whole 'raw feeling thing' ;) thanks for giving us somewhere to express ourselves & please feel free to keep yours coming!

  3. The way I see it, the only difference between two people arguing and a war between two countries is the number of people involved. It's all, usually senseless, fighting. So what if someone doesn't agree, or does things differently. I've never understood why that's so upsetting to some people.

  4. Wow! This is an amazing post. I completely agree. We should support U.S. farmers, no matter how they choose to farm, because we need farmers to feed our families and a hungry world. I worry that all the negativity, criticism and over-regulation of U.S. farmers and food production will eventually push agriculture overseas. I don't want to buy beef from Brazil; I want to buy from farmers like you in the U.S.

  5. Well said, Shanen. As I've said to you in the past, "conventional farmers" is MY FAMILY. (not me personally, my relatives.) These people are not evil, nor mean to their animals. They treat their animals very well, according to their paradigm. They don't see relatively small pens as "bad conditions."

    Know what? Very few of us used to see that as a bad thing. Then one day, we read enough and heard enough to start thinking about it and something we heard, read, or thought shifted our paradigm.

    But my uncles, cousins, and grandfather do/did not treat their animals poorly... but definitely conventionally. They're not bad people. They are, in fact, doing the very best for their animals, their operations, and their families that they can. If you asked them, they would very honestly tell you the well-thought-out reasons for the way they do things the way they do.

  6. Whoo hoo! Well said, well, well said! I'm very blunt as well and I'm glad you didn't edit your was wonderful!

  7. Well said. We run a grass feed cow/calf operation, but you are right that there is not one ranch that has everything figured out over the next. I in fact drive my husband crazy because I would rather eat chicken or fish than beef on any given day of the week and here we sit on a cattle ranch. I too do not feel that there is any one way that is better than another other than to say that the treatment of the animals is the most important.