So often when consumers disagree with something we do, we respond with a scientific study. When they don’t respond well we get defensive and accuse them of being emotional. Wait…who got *emotion* involved…defensive is an emotion! They state a preference, maybe for reasons we don’t agree with but a preference.
Farmers are often passionate about what we do -from the truck we drive to the tractor paint to the cattle in the barn. Yet we respond with science because that’s what we make so many decisions on.We can playfully argue John Deere/IH or Holstein/colored cows or Dodge/Chevy for hours, but few take that as a personal insult.
So picture this – you sit down to a meal that smells heavenly. It’s been a long day and you’re hungry. You take a bite and as the flavors melt together do you think “this tastes *efficient*?” This has all the proteins, amino acids, carbs and everything I need and therefore is a balanced ration? It has X grams of fat, protein and salt. No – it’s emotion. It tastes awesome. Someone made the meal special.You enjoy it.
How many sit down for their morning coffee at the local cafe – there’s a new waitress and she asks if you want cream. Do you jump in her face and say how dare she drink her coffee differently than you? Some might, but probably won’t be welcome at the cafe very much! Difference of opinions is not personal. Why do we take difference of opinions personally?
If someone chooses to not eat dairy products, or doesn’t prepare eggs in the home, or avoids GMO produced foods why is it a means of attack that they have a food choice? None of us need the majority of the market, so if we truly support food choices why then criticize those who choose organic? Why criticize those who spend $250 on a heritage breed turkey? Why criticize those who surf the clearance shelf in the meat section to decide what they can afford to serve this week? All are making food choices!
Some time ago I ran across a poll that I did a blog post on – it was who do you like better, Madonna, Lady Gaga or neither. Over 68% said neither. 20% and 12% chose one or the other. 12% of the population has made Lady Gaga a superstar with millions of dollars. Some might call that a niche market! Neither waste any time on the 75% of the public who don’t like them.
The public chooses food and yes it’s emotional. Farmers may be large or small, dairy or hogs, niche market or futures market…but we’re all emotional! We all need to survive and there’s little more emotional than feeling like we’re being criticized for doing the best job possible. If you choose a Chevy truck is Ford insulted? No. You choose on what you need, what you prefer and, perhaps, what you *like*…emotion!
Perhaps we all need to show a little more emotion. We like to show the good stuff of course. A positive image – look how great we take care of our animals and environment. And most farmers do! But then instead of a pat on the back we get someone who just read a bad report in the news and imperfectly ask a question that sounds like accusing…and off to the defense we go.
Stop. Listen. Verify. Listen. It’s not personal…it’s choices.
So the idea of telling a less than appealing story based on emotion can seem horrifying. But guess what – animals die. Machinery breaks down. Things happen that aren’t pleasant and we deal with it and go on. I think it’s important to transparency to show the good of course, but don’t necessarily cover up the bad or how transparent is it?
“So and so has a good farm – they never have animals die on their farm!” Really? I think everyone large and small, indoor or outdoor, grass or confinement, occasionally has animals die. But do people assume it doesn’t happen if you don’t talk about it? Do they assume that because we’re transparent that all is rosy and sunny days?
There are over 308million people in the USA and every one of them makes a food choice three times a day or more. From the homeless veteran on the street to celebrities to the wealthy everyone needs food and everyone has a choice what that food will be.
And for all the organic, heritage, heirloom, grass fed, conventional, modern farms out there there are farm choices to fill those food choices. Too often we look short term – it’s competition. Look again at the network around us folks!
We’re a small peon in the food choice wheel at SlowMoneyFarm. We aren’t condemning those larger farms because we can’t feed the food choices they do! We’ve had some look down and insult us for “efficiency”, but offer more choices because of flexibility than many can. Choices. We could offer larger farms choices, if some worked with the smaller places. Corn, feed, hay has to come from somewhere and we don’t have land at this point to make it happen. So the farm willing to work with those smaller than them, as well as those larger, is an important link in the food chain.
We often say farmers are consumers too, but forget that when we get defensive. We forget that we’re all in the same network, and we can all work together. And we can do a better job of it to insure food choices – to allow and defend food choices. If someone chooses rabbit this weekend instead of beef, rest assured it’s not going to change the beef industry.
It’s just food choices.