Old McDonald’s Farm and Disney Don’t Portray Modern Farmers
“Musings of a Pig Farmer”
by Larry Sailer
During my talk last month at the 140confDM / State of NOW Conference in Des Moines, I mentioned Old McDonald’s Farm. Then conference founder Jeff Pulver (a city dude) asked Deb Brown (a country girl who lived for decades in Chicago) if today’s farms are really like Old McDonald’s Farm. Now I need to say that Deb does not farm, but even though she lives in the middle of farm country, she did not have an answer. Deb’s speechlessness made me realize how important it is for farmers like me to share our stories with all consumers, even those who live in rural areas.
Sharing my knowledge of modern farming with consumers, our customers, is the reason I agreed to speak at the 140 conference in the first place. As I stated in my talk, one of the things I try to do is first listen to what town folks have to say. I listened that day in Des Moines, and I learned that bacon is beloved! After I mentioned Bacon Fest, bacon was talked about the rest of the day!
Now back to Jeff’s question… Farming has changed greatly over the years. Unfortunately, people without a direct connection to farming often don’t see just how many improvements have been made. They only know what they hear and see through the media. Think of the images portrayed by Disney® cartoons. As a result, two or three generations have been led to believe that animals are like humans: They talk. They walk. And Porky the pig even hunts like a human. Being the old grumpy pig farmer, I can’t help but think how these shows have skewed the perception of farming.
The need is great to educate consumers about where their food comes from and how it is produced. It takes a real effort for a busy farmer to leave his/her farm and drive to a school or civic group meeting – or to a 140 conference – where people can listen, ask questions and share experiences.
There are many programs and groups in place to share the real story about farming and ranching, but we have a big job to do! Unless we make a concerted effort to educate, people like a young Desmund Adams won’t know how food gets to a grocery store. Desmund, who was raised in Chicago, commented during the 140confdm that he was 17 years old before he knew that meat came from an animal that was raised on a farm. His point is well taken: agriculture needs to do a better job of sharing farmers’ stories. You can help by sharing “Musings of a Pig Farmer” with your friends and family! Ask them to send me their questions by posting comments.