Six months have passed since readers have had their say about me, my work and its effect on their digestive system. Turns out the first two often riles the third as in a mid-April emailer, who signed his missive “All Small Farmers,” noted.
“I would like to ask you,” he queried about a column that offered a few tongue-in-cheek solutions (like “annex Canada”) to America’s ballooning deficit, “if you have any source of income other than your poor excuse of a 2-cent, narrow-minded, rural-removed column?”
With the niceties out of the way, he galloped on for 250 or so more words before he concluded with this luscious idea: “I’ll try not to puke whenever I hear your name.”
(I did reply — something I rarely do for someone so unsatisfied — to suggest he may have missed my weak attempt at humor. Still, he’s entitled to his opinion; he just might not want to read mine while enjoying lunch.)
Look out! Another emailer, responding to the same column, suggested that he “would like to see people like (me) identified so I know who not to help when they come knocking on the door.”
This writer concluded with a forecast: “Some day I will look back and say ‘Guebert helped run us into the ground with his writing.”
Some less-than-satisfied customers saw my columns as unbalanced. “You seem to be a shameful apologist for all things agriculture … (when) a more balanced perspective … would have been more constructive and appreciated.”
A late-winter emailer missed the spring rush to hammer me by sending his message Feb. 6.
“Alan,” the email read, “you have been away from the farm too long. Start writing about something else and leave us farmers alone.”
A mid-June column that condemned the then-proposed, now-passed, House of Representative cuts to federal food safety programs brought brickbats from far and wide. One Minnesota letter sender, a “majority owner of an edible bean processing plant,” wrote to suggest my defense of new food safety rules was badly misplaced.
“Just because you spend government money and call it food safety doesn’t mean the result is actually safer food,” he explained. In fact, “This year is my last year of a very productive and profitable business” because the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act, that I praised in the column, “extends my liability for every product I buy and every product I sell.”
That reality, he urged, is a fact “you need to reflect on (in) your future writings…”
Another writer, on a card postmarked in Honolulu, HI, offered his insight to the food safety column, also: “Food inspections are like flood insurance. If you subsidize a way of life in which people don’t need to pay attention to the food supply to avoid getting seriously ill or killed, then you will end up with a large population … who feels that the best thing to think about is who’s gonna win ‘American Idol.’”
Think that’s cold? The card’s postscript adds, “Let evolution operate to remove them from the gene pool.” Whoa.
For every critical or anger-laced email or letter I received 10 complimentary, even generous, ones. An overwhelming number arrived after a Memorial Day column that explained why — and why not — a World War I soldier named Tobey Farmer died in France one day before the armistice that ended the War to End All Wars.
Most of the letters featured shaky penmanship like the one from John in Minnesota who wrote to say the column “brought tears to my eyes.” Thank you, John.
Indeed, thanks to all who wrote letters and sent emails. Keep ‘em coming. And, oh, try to keep your lunch down, too.
(The Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 70 newspapers in North America. Contact Alan Guebert at www.farmandfoodfile.com.)