R-E-S-P-E-C-T… Find out what it means to me

As another busy year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on all the people I have met in 2014. Most people want to make the world a better place, but we have different ideas on how to do this. Even though I don’t always agree with everyone, I make it a point to listen and be respectful.

I also want to be heard. That’s why I’m extremely active in promoting what I do as a farmer. I want to help others understand what farmers do and why we do it. I want consumers to ask their questions to a real farmer!

Too many rules and regulations are being determined by people who have no idea the consequences of their actions. That’s why I’ve been active in a lot of political issues. Regulations of any kind hit my radar: farming, conservation, healthcare, finance, school lunch, and more.

Anytime you enter the political arena, you know you’re going to find people – who are very passionate about their beliefs – on both sides of the issue. Both sides, at least for the most part, believe the world would be a better place if everyone just agreed with them! Take for example the issue of soil and water conservation…

Last year at this time my Letter to the Editor was published in The Des Moines Register. Because of my letter, I received hate mail. Some of the filthiest language imaginable came back to me in the form of “anonymous letter” simply because I’m a farmer. The person who responded to me believes all farmers are polluting all the drinking water in Des Moines.

Am I just hated because I farm? I tried to consider why another person would send me an anonymous letter. I honestly believe this person wants cleaner water, but I don’t believe his distasteful actions will help accomplished his goal. I’m sure he does not have the same life experiences I have had growing up farming. Has he had a terrible experience due to unclean water? Did he live beside a farmer who did not care? (Believe it or not, I have known a few farmers who didn’t care. As with every profession, there are some rotten apples.) I would have liked to have had a conversation with this person, so I could understand where he was coming from but I honestly don’t believe he was interested in either talking or listing. Listening should be a two-way street.

When one listens before speaking, understanding can be reached. Last week I had a conversation with a young lady, who asked why we can’t make gestation stalls larger. I explained to her how gestation stalls actually protect the pregnant pig (sow) from hurting other pigs and more the farmer.

I’m sure this particular lady’s questions were raised after the singer Cher got herself involved in the debate over gestation crates, probably at the request of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Yes, the majority of the people who donate their $19 every month are just trying to help the poor little puppies and kitties they see in the commercials on late night TV. It’s just too bad that their money doesn’t get used as intended. Only one half of one percent of the funds raised by HSUS goes toward animal care! To ensure abandoned animals or displaced pets find a forever home, donate to your local (no kill) animal shelter.

The HSUS is a prime example of how a person can “follow the money and find the motive.” If research is cited, who paid for it? Did the information come from a special interest group? If a consumer is concerned about food safety, did he or she consult with a dietician or a doctor? Or did the consumer get his or her information from the “experts,” like those who set up the new school lunch program?

Speaking of the school lunch program, I’d like to believe that the First Lady wants our kids to grownup healthier. But I’d like to know where she gets her information. Why does she promote the choices for kids that she does? Why not let concerned “experts” like head cooks at local schools choose the best food for their areas?

Another issue I’ve been pondering is the debate on GMOs. Our nation has done such a great job of raising large quantities of food that Americans enjoy the luxury of food choice. Because most Americans want to make healthy food choices, multi-billion (yes, “billon”) dollar anti-GMO campaigns are causing people to fear what they don’t understand. Consider the source before you believe the rhetoric!

Increase your comfort level by engaging in productive conservations. Conversation is a great thing. Really listening is a fantastic thing! Understanding where even the nastiest conversation is coming from brings a whole new light to the conversation.

People are different. Life experiences and information sources makes us that way. As we work to make a positive difference in the world around us, we must remember to disagree without being disagreeable. And keep in mind, the outcome of change affects more than just you!