Friday, June 13, 2014

Raising Havoc in Hatton

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at a community meeting in Hatton, Mo. Of course, I wasn't exactly invited to speak. I just temporarily took over the mic because that's how I roll. Aaron, my husband, begged me not to go up there. "Just leave it alone," he said. He's not much on public speaking and certainly doesn't like to stand out in a crowd. But, I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't stand there and let the crowd verbally beat down the farmer and his family without anyone to speak up for not just him but pig farmers everywhere.

This meeting was due to a proposed sow facility that an Iowa company wants to build on a Hatton farmer's land. Basically, the family farm in Hatton is teaming up with the company in Iowa to accomplish two things: 1) The Iowa company wants sows closer to Missouri finisher facilities, 2) The family farmer gets all the manure. Some may say the family farmer is getting the crappy end of the stick, but manure is invaluable to a farmer. It decreases costs, adds valuable organic nutrients to the soil and reduces the use of petroleum chemicals like anhydrous-ammonia.

The meeting was fun, for me anyway. I had forgotten just how much I love public speaking, especially when I'm talking about my family's farm. I also get a kick out of mild controversy. This meeting also reminded me that education is needed more now than ever.

Despite the efforts by farmers, ag organizations and others, consumers seem to be shifting further away from agriculture and more towards misconceptions. There's the belief that there is only one way to farm and that there must be some sort of rivalry between farmers--organic vs. modern, small vs. large, old-school vs. new technology, etc. Why?

The moral of this story is simple: If you ever get a chance to go to a community meeting regarding a local farm family, please go! In fact, any chance you get to share your farm story, do it.

My family didn't have to go to this meeting. We don't even live very close to Hatton and we have absolutely nothing to do with this business venture. We went to support a fellow farmer. We went because it was the right thing to do. I didn't have to speak. I could have just sat in the back row and kept my thoughts to myself, but I didn't. I saw an opportunity to represent farmers and I jumped on it.

My challenge to you: Make a point to share your story. Tell a neighbor, write a blog post, post something on Facebook or Twitter or go to a local meeting and start a conversation. It's easy to ignore the issue, but at what cost?

Consumers deserve to know where their food comes from and farmers—not lobbyists, extremist groups or the like—are the best ones to educate them on this matter. It's a heavy burden, but one we must carry.

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