It was simple question at the Missouri Farmers Care meeting between local farmers and consumers, "How can we help you?"
And Pike County hog farmer Jim Fisher gave a quick response, "Buy food."
Fisher is part owner in Fisher Hog Farms near Middletown, Mo. There along with his family, they nurture 2,600 sows that produce roughly 65,000 pigs per year.
Fisher was joined that evening by cattleman Bill McLaren, dairy farmer Donna Telle and row crop and cattlewoman Kristine Sutton. Missouri Farmers Care brought the four farmers together to enlighten bloggers, media and consumers about how food is grown on their farm.
For me it was like sitting around a dinner table listening to old friends. Bill shared how he uses low-stress practices in his 100-head operation. "We have learned that the less stress you put on an animal, the better tasting the product will be."
At Fisher hog farms, they are proponents of animal care. Sows give birth in gestational crates in order to keep the sow from lying on the baby pigs. "It is a 400 lb. sow versus a 5 lb. baby pig. We are on the baby pig's side," Jim explained. "We have to give them a fighting chance."
And Kristine says that giving antibiotics is necessary. "I think it is more inhumane to allow an animal to suffer, when I have medicine to help make it better," the Washington County farmer said. "You would not withhold medication from a child, so why would I withhold it from my cattle."
These farmers were open and honest about their operations. For some in the audience learning about agriculture was brand new. Many did not grow up on the farm. So, there were questions surrounding genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, organic farming and animal care. But these questions were answered by individuals who work on a daily basis on the farm. They shared with the audience how GMOs have increased productivity and in some areas nutritional value. They shared how agriculture needs all sectors, organic, natural and conventional to feed the 9 billion by 2050.
In the end, after their personal stories and answering tough questions, the audience asked, "How can we help you?"
It seemed obvious to me, and apparently, Jim-- buy food. It doesn't matter if your food choice comes from the local meat market, farmer's market, chain grocery store or fast food restaurant. Food is food.
Many Americans appear to have forgotten that the majority of food they eat comes from plants or animals. And the majority of these plants and animals are cared for by America's farm families.
Events like these put on by Missouri Farmers Care provides that link for consumers. For some it may be the first time they see a real live farmer, not one in a magazine, on television or on YouTube. These farmers are not scripted. Rather, they are Missourians sharing their livelihood with their consumer. And as Bill said, "If you want to visit my farm, it is always open."