Freedom To Farm, Freedom Of Speech

Northstar Notes

These two deeply-held freedoms in U.S. constantly butt heads.

Published on: August 4, 2013

Another anti-farm editorial appeared in the Star Tribune this week, penned by a columnist who cited opinion voiced by two vegetarians.

The author held up "factory farming" as an example of the horror that animals face in his attempt to defend animal rights.


That is so 1990s.

That's when livestock farms that survived the 1980s started to expand. They were building new facilities, managing new employees, adding more livestock and accumulating acreage. Farmers were working double-time, learning how to be managers in addition to being laborers. They collectively kept their heads down, thinking if they worked hard enough, they could pull through anything. It worked in the past so, maybe it would work again.

Freedom To Farm, Freedom Of Speech
Freedom To Farm, Freedom Of Speech

That was not the case. Too much had changed in farming.

Farmers were at a new point on the learning curve and they knew it. Everyone was telling them to get better as they got bigger.

Well, they did.

That paradigm shift from working the farm to managing it and a staff of employees was huge for farmers. They had to learn how to communicate with non-family workers and explain how to do chores in a manner that a city kid could understand.

With more animals and land to manage, farmers also had to keep ahead on environmental stewardship and become more aware of animal welfare issues. They have had to make time for feedlot and environmental quality meetings. They have had to put a face on agriculture and are ready to take whatever comes.

And they have.

So as we continue to hear in the media these worn-out negative opinions about big farms, we sigh and wonder what rock they were under.

There are two simple truths that animal rightists just don't get. One, that food-producing "factory" animals, if "suffering," will not profitably gain weight or make milk. And two, that farm families love what they do and take pride in raising healthy, high-quality livestock and poultry. Some of those critters end up in their freezers, too.

Unfortunately, some consumers believe what animal rightists and vegetarians espouse. That big means bad and farms with—what, 200 cows or 200 chickens in a barn?--are "factories." Those aren't "factories," they are family farms, America.

Anti-livestock groups have preached their agendas so loud for so long that many folks think what they say is truth. As a result, those wrongly-informed folks who have never raised farm animals for food have dictated how to raise them. They used their clout as consumers to pressure numerous large food companies to procure cage-free eggs and gestation crate-free pork.

Where is common sense here? Practicality? Science?

We have a minority of the population who complain on full stomachs about food production.

And on the flip side, we have a minority of the population producing food to feed this country and others. Most farmers welcome the opportunity to talk about their businesses. Some host tours and some post on social media.

They have nothing to hide.

Rather, they have pride in what they do, 24/7, with integrity and thoroughness.

That's so 2013—farmers who listen, learn, share and provide.