I come across headlines daily that attack farmers and food. I know that there is a disconnect and a lack of understanding between what my family does each day, along with millions of others, to provide food, fiber and fuel to Americans, most of which do not farm or ranch. But I was caught off guard when I heard a few comments last week at an agricultural convention.
The first happening that caught me off guard was when a judge at a national agriculture achievement competition told my dear friends that their story of becoming first generation farmers, with their children working at their side, working to build a farm, a legacy, and future, all while doing something that they love and sharing their passion with others was “nothing less than a country song“. It was implied that they basically made up their story. WHAT????!!!! I don’t even know where to start with my disgust and surprise. This is a national elite competition where the finalist have all been vetted by people and an organization that knows them well. It is disappointing because this was very unprofessional and disrespectful of a judge to 1) say and 2) to not respect and listen to the reality of the real life experience. One needs to know that yes, there is opportunity for people to enter into farming and truly choose this occupation. Yes, people can really love what they do! Yes, people struggle and ride the roller coaster of market prices, weather, and need for dedicated and hard working labor and still continue on each day with a smile on their face. A country song… well maybe, but not the down and out sad ones that are played on the radio. The farm story told by my friends would be uplifting, encouraging, and a darn good one at that! I would love to write a song sharing the real ups and downs and the faith that carries us through that exemplifies the story my dear friends from Kentucky and numerous others’ experience each year!
The second experience happened at the same national farm convention.
featured speaker for the closing session was Barbara Corcoran, probably known best for her role on Shark Tank. She showed a picture, (seen to the left), and stated that this farmer was not what people thought to be farmers. In fact, she said thatshe
didn’t think it was a real farmer either. I do believe my chin dropped and hit the floor! She was speaking to 1000’s of people who live and breath agriculture each day. If this isn’t a real picture of a farmer, I don’t know what is! So, after I picked my chin from the floor and put my eyeballs back in their socket, I set out to find the picture on Google.
Yes, in deed this is a real farmer. I found the picture and went to the website that it was associated with, www.JaniBryson.com . It was accompanied by a description ( printed below the photo). An email from the photographer confirmed the caption too! Ahha! I felt victorious, but I didn’t stop there. I sent a note to Barbara Corcoran herself, explaining that her picture was a real farmer, shared the copyright, (Yes, I have permission to use it), the story and where she could find more pictures capturing beautiful moments in life!
As I have been taught to do, I ended my note to her with an ask, “I ask that you take time to reflect on this presentation and find peace with the injustice you did. Perhaps, your next Corcoran Report should highlight and appreciate agriculture and the fact that farmers do work 98% of Americans refuse to do, yet that 98% sits back and reaps the benefits. Perhaps you should highlight what you can learn from us…. starting with, the fact that we won’t we bitten by a shark!”
Did I go too far? Maybe, maybe not. I was and still am bothered by Corcoran down talking agriculture when she was paid to speak to a large agricultural group. Again, I felt professionalism did not come into play. At this time, my peace has been said and I await her response, which I don’t hold my breath to receive. But when all is said and done, at least I know I have shared with her, or her secretary, my feelings and a bit of information about farmers and family farms in the USA.
To sum up these two eye opening experiences, I simply say they were surprising and caught me off guard. I have learned that I am not afraid to speak up, to value those who work hard, that there is a need to lift up those who deserve it, and to expect the unexpected!
So, to close, I say THANK YOU to all who work hard each day to provide goods and services for others!