An open letter to Everyone

I’m not sure who may read this and knowing some of you may not know me, I want to start this off by introducing myself. I am a fifth generation grain and beef farmer from Ohio. My daily responsibilities on our family’s farm vary immensely from day to day, but in the end, each day I am striving to ensure that we are treating our land and livestock in a respectable and sustainable manner to ensure future generations will have the chance to continue farming our family’s farm if they choose to.

I have been paying attention to celebrities, special interest groups, and even several media sources talk about how our food is produced in America. I’m sure you have seen some of it too. In most cases I am disappointed at how farms like mine are portrayed. In fact several times I was frustrated or even quite mad at the information that was spewed. My family invests our hearts and souls in our farm and to hear people speak about farms broadly, I have felt personally attacked. That has colored how I’ve viewed questions from regular people like you. Unfortunately, several times I would act inappropriately after hearing misinformation and immediately started throwing stones back at my accusers. I realize now that this was inappropriate and instead of worrying about what the naysayers were saying about farmers like me, I should have made myself available more to listen and answer your questions about my family’s farm.

Honestly, I have several concerns about how some special interest groups are communicating about “the correct way to farm.” Farming is a very diverse career, with varying types of soil and climate across the world every farmer must decide what is best for their family, on their farm, for their customers. Many times if I were to follow the instructions these stone throwers tell me how I should farm, it would mean total devastation to my farm both economically and environmentally.

Please understand that I am three generations removed from you and the rest of America. The things that are everyday experiences for those of you in the city are far from my day-to-day. Those experiences have shaped the opinions we have, the perspective from which we see things and so much more. When I have an question, I turn to the best available science and research to help aid me in my decision on how to move forward. I have now come to realize that you may not be interested in all the research that backs my farming practices. I would like to discuss your concerns more, but please be patient with me as I try to understand them.

I am not alone in my feelings here, I talk to farmers everyday that are curious at how we can better communicate with people outside if agriculture. Personally though, I feel like we are fifty years late to the conversation. I am asking you to forgive our shortcomings in the past and let’s start a new conversation about how we would like to do things in the future, about what really matters to us, about how we’d like our food to be grown. My hopes are that this will be a two-way conversation, and while it will be impossible to please everyone I think it’s possible that we develop a mutual understanding and respect towards each other while we address issues that truly need changing in order to move forward.

Sincerely,
Mike Haley

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On Thursday September 22nd I will be attending the food dialogues town hall in Washington D.C. Please feel free to follow along via the live webcast or on twitter by searching for the #FoodD hashtag.