Advocating for agriculture means sharing farming’s stories, even when you don’t really feel like it. I know this brand of customer service isn’t for everyone, especially when it’s added to an already long to-do list.
But it’s important that producers maintain a united, transparent and friendly front for consumers. In an age when farming practices are under constant fire, agvocating is an obligation.
I’m a millennial farmer, and I want to do my part. When I encounter new neighbors, who are coming in droves from suburban Philadelphia and New Jersey to escape high taxes and other perils of urban life, I know I’m representing the industry.
And yet there are times when I don’t want to wear the farmer crown, like when when I’m at a friend’s baby shower, or standing along the road feeding my sheep at the end of an exhausting day.
I just want to be a 26-year-old woman who loves her cows and sheep, and who also enjoys talking about the best wine pairing for an all-meat charcuterie board. And sometimes I just want to soak in the solitude that farm chores provide after spending hours in front of a computer.
Sometimes I just want the New Jersey and Philadelphia transplants with their silly questions, requests for farm tours and nosy objections to leave me and my little paradise alone.
I know many farmers, especially older ones, who share this sentiment.
No one ever wanted to job shadow me when I was hustling sales as a telemarketer. And I doubt those curious customers will ever return the favor by inviting me to their new house in that new development for a tour and to meet their dog.
Enjoying the Peace
Reflecting alone, while watching the cows graze on pasture or the sunset as the tractor takes another turn in the field, is the essence of being a farmer. It’s also an important part of our mental health strategy after a tough day.
There are moments after my newspaper deadlines when I’m out doing chores and the traffic passing the farm has quieted, and no one has stopped to ask me questions about the farm. That’s when I feel very blessed to live in this Eden that my mom, dad and I have striven to keep alive in our corner of the world.
The moments are fleeting, but they last long enough to persuade me and my family that the struggles and constant questions from neighbors, especially young ones, are worth it.
For example, Riley, a 7-year-old girl who lives in my neighborhood, interviewed me for a career-focused homework assignment. Peppering away with questions, she mentioned that she loves tending to her family’s small flock of chickens and wants to be a farmer.
Her questions were thoughtful. She asked about the economics, animal welfare management and skills a farmer should have.
Farmers have many skills. They are able to solve problems with WD-40 and baler twine, and they are masters of reading an animal’s behavior to diagnose a problem.
But a skill that everyone needs, and can usually stand to improve, is communication. Whether you’re talking to your partner about moving animals among pastures or to a consumer about what cows like to eat, the message should be clear and constructive.
Moving animals without shouting at your partner makes for a smooth move and a happy peer, and giving your time to a third-grader to share what a farmer’s life is like results in a knowledgeable consumer, and maybe even a future farmer.
So, I am ready to agvocate from time to time, but don’t be surprised when I prefer to do my farm chores in silence.
It’s been a long day, and Pear — my favorite cow — never asks for anything but a treat and hug.