cow selfie

Farmers are People

Last Saturday as a calf took its first breath there were cheers and big smiles among a small crowd welcoming her to the world. A couple of women driving by had seen our heifer calving and stopped along the road to watch. After a little while (the heifer had been pushing for about an hour), we decided to assist the birth, and at that time, the women watching pulled into our driveway, stopped and walked down along the fence to observe a little closer. I told them I didn’t mind at all, said a silent prayer that all would go well (especially given the audience), and started pulling. After she arrived, I informed our guests that the new calf was a girl (see the photo on Facebook). They watched for a few more moments as the new mama started to clean her calf off, and then thanked us and went on their way. We share our story on social media, but words and pictures do not make an experience – we got to show these two passersby more of the real story – the way we interact with our cattle, the way they interact with us, and the miracle of a new life, in this case a future milk cow.

In stark contrast, this Saturday I posted a photo on my Instagram account of two of our “getter-outer” cows standing by the gate by our milk barn. I noted that these two didn’t like where we put our fences, but they still wanted to be milked (I opened the gate, and they walked right in – no persuasion required). Without thinking I used a hashtag (#milktruth) that was apparently being monitored by a rather angry set of vegans. I almost immediately started receiving comments about stealing babies and milk and being “fake” for claiming to care about our cattle. When I took the photo, I was standing in the rain doing exactly what these cows wanted me to do, so forgive me for my confusion. One user was so amped up over my post that she posted disrespectful and insulting (and untrue) comments on several of my other pictures before I was felt it was necessary to block her.

I’m not opposed to a difference of opinion, and I strive to allow productive discussion on all of my social media sites. After all, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job as a farmer or a writer if my opinions and practices cannot stand up to challenges; however, I will not approve comments that are disrespectful, slanderous or vulgar, and I will not hesitate to block someone who is clearly on the attack. There’s nothing productive about that situation. They don’t care what I have to say, and at that point, I don’t much care for their input either.

So what’s the difference? When a person witnesses our work face to face, they are polite and respectful. No question is off-limits, and we give the best honest answers we can. When a person (albeit one with a pre-conceived agenda to attack what we do) sees us posting about our work on the internet, though, they are rude and often vulgar. I often wonder, have they forgotten that on the other side of another screen is a person? Would the discussion go differently face to face? Maybe not, but perhaps the anonymity of the internet allows them to ignore the humanity of the people on the other side.

cow selfie
Me and my cow Flurry a few days before she had her first calf.

Most farms are family owned, and they’re managed by the same people out there busting their backs every day. In case you didn’t know this, farmers are people. I didn’t realize it had to be said, but apparently it does. We’re people (even those of us who use social media), just like you. We work, we play, we win, we lose, we laugh, we cry, we struggle, but we try. Every single day we try to do our best – at home, in the barn, and in between. We try to make a living. We try to build a legacy. We try to care for our land and our animals in the best way possible. We try to do all things in a way that lets us sleep well at night. We are not perfect, but we are people.

46 thoughts on “Farmers are People

  1. Thank you for this story. We also own and operate a mid size dairy farm. Most city folk have no clue what it is all about. I would love Peta to send someone out to do what we do each day. Maybe then they might understand that we take great care of our animals, and try to do the best for them that we can. Our cows eat a healthy diet, probably better then most people and get excellent medical care.

      1. Being a farmer and having watched the birth of many calves and helping pull several, I know exactly what you was doing. It’s too bad the haters don’t understand we love our animals, whether they are working animals or pets. Their well being is of the utmost importance to us, both personally and financially.

  2. Flurry and her calf have a great friend and owner. Thank you for being honest. I believe that much of the hostility comes from some perceived “unnatural” practices of some of the “factory farms”. Yours and Annette’s appear to be nice examples of how livestock farming should be approached.

  3. I am a 3rd generation dairy farmer and have also found that those who we come in contact with face to face come away with a much different attitude than those on any social media site. We have had a lot of the area Head start programs vist our farm and it isn’t the kids that ask the strange questions it’s usually the adults. The best was when we had a mom’s club come out some of those ladies had a different opinion when we we done. Never have heard a negative word from any of our groups. Most ask to come back every year.

    1. The more I look at this divide, I don’t think ignorance is the issue. I think there is a group with an agenda looking to knowingly take advantage of a middle-ground consumer who lacks factual information. But the prejudice is certainly there! Thanks for reading!

  4. Great post! It’s one thing to ask a question about what’s going on. It’s another thing to attack and slander a person and their position. Delete and block is the rule when I’m attacked. You shouldn’t be bullied by people who know nothing of what you do.

  5. Some folks are so convinced that this or that group of people are monsters that they feel justified in treating them as non-person trash.

  6. I grew up on a dairy farm but I still must admit in all honesty that most of the practices on dairy farms are very cruel. I am very familiar with them. So that’s it. Even people who have never lived this life “get it”. You can label them as monsters, cyber-bullies, animal extremists or whatever you choose, but they have the truth on their side. Sorry to offend.

    1. Letty, I’m sorry your family’s farm was run in a cruel manner. Do you think all dairies are run the same way? I really do think my tiny dairy is run very differently from a 10,000-cow dairy.

      1. All farms are different. I was not raised on a dairy farm, and I have questioned and examined our practices with fresh eyes. I am confident that we provide a high standard of care to our animals. I do not wish to label people based on their opinions, and would ask that you return that respect. Thank you both for reading and commenting.

  7. Great article! We are small purebred beef and grain farmers, and attend numerous shows every year. The more our “urban” population sees how we interact and treat our animals, the better they feel about the meat they are eating or the milk they are drinking. Information is the key!

  8. Thank you for your thoughts & opinions. Those that have never done what you do have no idea what it takes. Ignore the ignorent as they are just stupid & require no more attention that a sheet flying in the wind. Good for you for being the best farmer you can be!

    1. If we don’t make the information available, our consumers have no choice but to believe the “other side”. People can only know the information they’re provided. Thanks for your comment!

  9. I’m a “city girl” (suburban, actually) who always wished she was a “country girl” & have read a lot about it all. No question that there are some with an agenda & are out to twist the info to get people to do what they want no matter what it takes. Keep up the good work & teaching; the world needs farmers!

  10. talk is cheap… if they’d put their money where their mouth is we’d see a better attitude.. let them come out and do the work for a year and see if their perspective isn’t different… work a year in the sunshine.. AND rain, cold, wind, heat and humidity for a full year.. 24/7/365,.. livestock don’t take vacations or time off…. Been there, Done that, have the rubber boots
    the anonymity of the internet lets people be assholes with no ramifications to their words…

    1. Anonymity is dangerous. People should be accountable for their words and actions – clearly, we are expected to be. Those who oppose our practices have the ability to make a difference with how they choose to spend their dollars. Much more effective than attacking us online, anyway. Thanks for your comment, Michael!

  11. when i was growing up, my family made no bones about telling us children where food comes from. it was handled very matter of fact…no glossing over, yet no graphic descriptions. i went and assisted (my idea) at the fall chicken cull at the age of 11. i was not scarred for life nor was i traumatized by it because it was done swiftly with little fuss and with much respect for the food the chickens were providing us. i am raising my own children to know where food comes from, to respect life, to work hard for what we need. the supersized supermarkets of this age are a detriment to society as far as food knowledge is concerned. if people took a step back from blinder inducing commercialization and really knew the work, effort, and, yes, love we have for our animals and for our fields….perhaps we would have a better respect for the farmers that work their butts off to put food in our fridges and bellies.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carisa! The more I learn about everything that goes into food production, the more I respect the people who make it so easy for me to feed myself and family!

  12. I can see both sides – I am vegetarian – but not vegan. I would rather pay double or quadruple for my dairy products to ensure the animals are treated well. Sadly there are many examples of farms and slaughter houses that do not treat their animals well and as a consumer how can we be sure we are supporting the “good” ones? Supermarkets labelling often promises free range etc – but I’m not sure how true these claims are. PETA are very good at showing the bad side but forget to let people know that it is not all like that! Thank you for being the caring, compassionate person you are and keep up the good work.

    1. Michelle, there are certainly bad apples – we’ve all seen the videos. No one is more appalled than those of us putting the work in to do things right. I truly believe most farmers do their best, regardless of the system they choose (free range, conventional, organic, grazing, hormone free, whatever else). I encourage you to do your research but know that most farmers weigh a lot of options when making any and all production decisions. Healthy, well cared for animals are more profitable, too. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  13. You asked “what is the difference”. The difference is the two who drove by were willing to learn and curious about what you were doing. Most of the ARA’s are not interested in the truth. When I have been given their information, I have politely told them to phone a farm and go see for themselves. Other than some bio-security measures, I believe most farmers are willing to give people the tour.

    As for the cows going into the milking barn. While in a traffic jam, I watched one poor farmer trying to get his cows out so he could power wash the inside, the cows walked back in. So he shooed them back out and closed that door, The cows then walked around the barn and went in the other side. Traffic started moving then, but I’m pretty sure he had to close both doors to finish the job. Seems that cows like to be milked, Who would have thought it?

  14. I am not a farmer BUT I live in farm country here in Ontario. I am not vegan…I do like my meat. Every day I watch my neighbours from young to old drive by from the wee hours of the morning till long after the sun has set and I think wow…do they ever rest? I am thankful for everything they do. It doesn’t matter what you post…someone somewhere is going to give you flack. I run a junking page on facebook and I have slowly learnt just stick to junking…do not show my personal life through my photography as someone has to notice something wrong in the picture and before you know it…a raging rampage has begun and an attack on me as well as other posters. You just can not please everyone. If only they could all see we are unique individuals and all have our own beliefs and opinions on how we live our lives. As long as you know and truly believe in you, words do not matter. Keep farming like you farm…cause I know a whole lot of people who are thankful for you farmers being people.

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