City people need farm days, too
I boarded the school bus, took a seat and tried not to look conspicuous. We were getting ready to leave on a tour of farms in our county that were owned and operated by women. I was a little self-conscious because I have never driven a tractor or roped a calf (mostly because I wasn't coordinated enough). In fact, I don't even live in the country anymore. I had heard about the event in an email from our local chamber and thought it sounded like fun. After all, I used to live in the country and had grown up around agriculture. So, armed with the knowledge I had gleaned from my time in 4-H, I settled into my seat and got to know the women around me.
As it turns out, I wasn't alone. There were several women who joined us that day who didn't farm. Some of them were like me — they had grown up around agriculture and wanted to stay in touch with that part of their heritage. Others were just curious. But we all came away with new information we had learned — including the real farmers.
Here's why this is important. I'm a mother. I have two children. I am responsible for feeding these children multiple times a day. I am constantly being bombarded with information about the foods I choose to feed them. I have friends telling me that I should feed my children foods that are only organic because "regular" fruits and vegetables are poisoning my children. I have "mommy bloggers" writing about how my little girl will enter womanhood before her body is truly ready because of GMOs. And I have restaurants (that will remain unnamed), that are telling me that farmers are cruel, money-hungry people who don't care about the animals they're raising, the earth they are farming, or the people they are feeding.
They must not have met any of the women on our tour because they were the exact opposite of cruel. And that's kind of the point. I met these women and was a guest on their farms. They take great care of their animals and great pride in their work. They're trying to make a living and feed the world at the same time. They are mothers, daughters, sisters — one farm we stopped at was owned by my fifth grade teacher!
I have been blessed to have been able to grow up in the Midwest. Even if I don't have any land to farm, I know lots of people who do. There are programs in my county for youth wanting to be involved in ag — 4-H, FFA and high school ag classes. My kids can watch local farmers at work just by looking out the window during our daily commute!
But not everyone is so lucky. My college roommate was from another country and had never seen a wheat field or a pasture of grazing cattle. I interned with other college students who only knew life in the big city. It's important to have programs that allow all of the "city folk" to see what it is that farmers actually do — and I'm not talking about another petting zoo. It's important for people to know where their food comes from. That there are people who have a passion for doing the hard work it takes to grow our food. That farmers are just regular people doing a really important job.
I am grateful to have had the chance to spend the day with some amazing ladies in my county and learn a little bit more about what is happening locally in agriculture. If you are a farmer or rancher reading this, I hope that you consider how you can help to educate future generations as to the source of their food and instill a love of agriculture in them.