Critical {Farm} Thinking 101 for Rural Nurses

My Generation

A morning with nursing students offered a look at modern farm & food production, and left them questioning mainstream media "information."

Published on: March 9, 2012
Last week, my sweet friend and fellow farm wife, Patty, invited me over to her house to talk with her rural nursing class. Patty teaches nursing at the local university and during her rural nursing course each year, she brings the class out to her family's farm for the day. They see what a PTO shaft actually looks like, they learn what a grain bin is, they take a look at the cattle and they get an idea what rural and remote really feels like.

This year she invited me to come and speak to them, sharing both my experiences in farm safety and a little about the misconceptions revolving around our modern food system.

Easy enough.

It was a small group and gathered around Patty's living room and dining room, we were able to ask questions and really have a conversation. The farm safety stuff was easy enough; in my short life span, I've been the victim (20-foot pipe gate fell on my 5-year-old leg), the bystander (Dad and I were in the pasture when he was nearly mauled to death by a bull; I was 13) and the wife (my husband was knocked unconscious a couple harvests ago). Easy is probably not the proper term there. Particularly if you're trying to convince a grown man to do something he doesn't want to do, like, say, go to the ER. I'm not naming any names, but his initials are John Spangler.

Anyway.

When Patty opened it up for questions, their initial thoughts were of food. "What's the deal with corn syrup?" So I gave a little background on the "documentaries" that led to the demonization of our miracle corn crop. I shared about glucose and fructose and how very similar "regular" sugar is to corn syrup. I shared how sugar cubes don’t grow on trees; granulated sugar goes through as much or more processing than corn syrup. I told how corn syrup is inexpensive to produce, and it's put in products that people tend to eat too much of. So again, moderation. We also talked about marketing, and how there are products sporting "No HFCS!" that never had it to begin with.

They asked about hormones in milk, and we so we talked through BST and rBST and how there's no scientifically-discernible difference between them. And this being a science-based group, they really wanted to know about those things. We talked about young girls maturing earlier and why that might be happening.

Patty pulled out some steaks and we talked about USDA quality grades and what marbling is and what it does for the eating experience. We talked about antibiotics in livestock production and what withdrawal times mean, and how all meat is inspected at the packer. We talked about cuts of meat and where they come from.

Then one young woman told us she had a sex question. (!) "So there's a hen? And there's a rooster? So what's a chicken?!"

It's like we were on Seinfeld! Somethin's missin' all right! After we pulled ourselves together, we tried to explain. And then we talked cows, bulls, steers and heifers; mares, stallions, geldings; sows, boars, barrows and gilts. Etcetera.

In all, it was a fun and fascinating day. And it was made all the better when I received this text from Patty later on that day:
"Thanks so much for talking w/ the group. I had one student state that she felt mislead by the media and was upset that she allowed herself to go with the "main stream." She said she knew to question health care decisions, but now she is questioning the media and food choices…That is what I wanted. I want the group to use their minds and critically think about their actions and how it may impact others!!"

And isn't that what we all want of everyone? That's the goal of all this blogging and talking and sharing with consumers, of all the "agvocating" and reaching out, right? We just want people to use their minds and think critically.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Holly for another great enlightening article. You really know how to say it. It just points out the need for we in agriculture to get out the real word about food and fiber production. Clark Williams

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This caught my eye as our daughter is a nurse. She wrote a paper on a grain bin accident, (didn't happen here), and it was published in the Nursing spectrum magazine. This was a great article, wish I could have been there to hear all the answers. Bobette

  4. Anonymous says:

    Excellent blog! And, good example of taking advantage of the "teachable moment!" Dan