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Opinion Piece Mourns Loss Of Family Farms

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Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof opines about the loss of family farms.

“Is it a soggy sentimentality for farmers to want their cows to be happy? Shouldn’t a businessman just worry about the bottom line?” asks Nicholas D. Kristof in an op-ed column for the New York Times. Kristof writes of his childhood on a sheep and cherry farm and features Bob Bansen, a dairy farmer who names all 230 of his milking cows.

Kristof believes Bansen is an exception to the norm, and when he asked him about whether it’s more important to make money or have happy cows, Bansen answered, “For productivity, it’s important to have happy cows. If a cow is at her maximum health and her maximum contentedness, she’s profitable. I don’t even really manage my farm so much from a fiscal standpoint as from a cow standpoint, because I know that, if I take care of those cows, the bottom line will take care of itself.”

Whether or not you name each one of your brood cows, I still think Bansen’s comments are shared by the majority of livestock owners. If you take care of your animals, they will take care of you -- it’s as simple as that.

A Closer Look: A Rancher's Letter To You About Animal Abuse

Although Kristof shared a negative viewpoint of agriculture -- mostly criticizing the poultry industry -- he ends on a positive note, “All is not lost. Family farms can still thrive, while caring for animals and producing safe and healthy food. I loved growing up on a sheep and cherry farm, even if that did mean getting up at 3 a.m. in the winter to check for newborn lambs, and I hope medium-size family farms remain a pillar of rural America. As Bansen’s dairy shows, food need not come at the cost of animal or human health and welfare. We need not wince when we contemplate where our food comes from.”

Read the entire column here

What do you think about this op-ed piece? While many consumers think food comes from “factory farms,” 98% of farms are family owned and operated, and this is a statistic we need to make viral -- sharing it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

By the way, take a minute to check out the photo gallery: Celebrating The “Workhorses” Of The Ranch.

Submit your own photo by Sept. 18 for a chance to win a $100 Farm Boy gift certificate. Check out contest details here.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Brian Reed (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2012

Here is the disconnect. The non-agricultural public has a 1950's romanticized version of the family farm, where the kids run and play outside while mom gathers eggs from a dozen hens before baking a pie. Dad is on the old two cylinder tractor, plowing a 40 acre patch to plant 6 different crops after having milked the two dairy cows and fed the 5 sows.

What the public sees as "factory farming" is what we do. To them, it doesn't matter if one multi-generation family owns and works the land, all that they see is one farm owning 500 momma cows, or growing 5000 acres of cotton. They are equating "factory" with size, volume of output, and single product.

Our goal needs to be focused on creating understanding that we are feeding the world, and animal health and welfare are paramount to that task. Just because I refer to a cow by her tag number doesn't mean I care less about her welfare.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2012

There's a big disconnect between consumers and producers. I agree that farmers and ranchers can and should do more to help educate consumers, but consumers should also do more to educate themselves. If they're really worried about their food they should be asking tough questions and working hard to find answers, rather than relying on talking heads and viral videos. They should consciously be trying to put these things in context and in perspective. If farmers and ranchers are killing more than 100,000 people each year with antibiotic resistant bacteria (and this is the actual claim being made, regardless of how they parse it), why are there no specific examples, no names of the murdered, no direct link to tainted food products. Why can't anyone name a single victim? Why are there no farmers and rancher in the dock facing murder charges? As Keyshawn Johnson would say, c'mon, man! Perhaps pointing out the inconsistency of the anti-ag narrative is as important as telling -- and showing -- our story.

Reynolds Moreland (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2012

boy could that ever be more true. majority of consumers dont understand and dont care to know what is involved in the process of getting food from the farm to the table. you have college kids that dont know pickles are made from a cucumber (yes i met one this past summer that did not know this) people think everything comes off a shelf and has a bar code, they really have no clue the hard work, variables that are involved (equipment maint, fuel, disease, risk of livestock loss) and cost involved to get that burger or steak to their grill. your margin for error is much smaller when you operate as a family farm.

DICK NOCKAnonymous (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2012

THREE EXCELLENT COMENTARIES.. RIGHT ON THE MONEY. THESE THOUGHTS NEED TO BE ON EVERY PRODUCERS DESK

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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