Farmers deserve more respect

farmer by tractor

The morning after the latest Doris (the escape artist) Dorset column was published, I poured myself a cup of coffee and planned to enjoy some early morning reading.

As I took my first sip, glancing out the window toward the barn, I did one of those old-style spit-takes. There, just wandering around, were several sheep, and not a’one of them was Doris. I grabbed my coat as I stepped into boots, heading out the door in no time flat. My English Shepherds glanced my way with a look that said, “We really are trying to do our job, honest!”

Mysterious escape

I tried to quickly ascertain how these three young rams had escaped a fairly large, very secure pasture with plenty of green grass for nibbling, and it was clear how they had escaped. The gate was standing wide open. As I headed in that direction to investigate, I felt something tugging on my jacket, where I am known to carry pup treats. I looked down, expecting one of my young shepherds-in-training.

Instead, the creature trying to nibble through my pocket was none other than Dink, the friendly little ram that Dang Doris brought into the world. I began calmly talking to this friendly fellow, and in no time his other chums decided to join us back inside the pasture.

I figured out a temporary fix to hold the gate, its chain-style closure inexplicably broken. How in the heck did that happen? As I watched Dink investigating my efforts, it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who had led the great escape.

I had spoken too soon, writing that Dink had never once followed in his mother’s Houdini hoofprints. When I returned to my morning cup of joe, I found myself cheering as I read the guest commentary in Farm and Dairy’s Oct. 29 issue, written by Kate Lambert, a Missouri farm woman.

Concerned consumer

As the day went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It begins with “Dear Concerned Consumer,” and broaches the subject every single person involved in agriculture has certainly felt. How we all would love to be able to pull a copy of Kate’s column out of our hip pocket when consumers accuse farmers of doing some dirty deed against the cry for non-GMO or organic, “a label that doesn’t even mean what you think it does.”

With Kate’s permission, I am sharing one of my favorite statements from her column: “I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm. If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store. If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income. … I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmers market who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his eight free-range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.”

More understanding

Kate, a great spokesman through her blog, who met her husband at a livestock show, tells me she married into agriculture, and finds herself hoping for a better culture of understanding in the future for her young sons. We provide well for consumers, who spend less than 10 percent of disposable income on food, “when people in other nations spend 40 percent,” she writes.

Consumers don’t mind reaching out to PETA to shout loudly from the rooftops that farmers treat their livestock terribly, while most have never spent a moment caring for farm animals as so many of us have done all our lives.

Dogs versus cattle

Kate writes, “I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle.”

I just might have stood up and cheered as I read that great point. And then I put my boots on and went back to check on Dink, the ram lamb that learned another slick way around my fence fix, once again out looking for adventure.

I just needed to urge the son of Dang Doris to show me how.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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