Combing through yellowed pages of Farm and Dairy from 1925 yields a unique look at history. As I look for items to include in the “80 years ago” portion of our weekly Read It Again feature, I’m struck by how different life was then, and yet, how little has changed.
Battling TB. As I sift through information from the early 1920s, I’ve been following the bovine tuberculosis uproar. Testing was a huge threat to farmers, for if an animal was found positive in a herd, the entire herd was euthanized. Tempers were hot, rifles were loaded and lines were drawn.
On the flip side, tuberculosis was a huge threat to the human population and consumers were clamoring for assurances that their milk was safe to drink.
The state’s first milk plant to handle milk only from tubercular-free cows was built in East Rochester, Columbiana County, by the Vinocur Dairy of Cleveland. The dairy quickly advertised that its milk came from cows tested and found free from bovine tuberculosis – an early instance of “branding” food safety claims.
Did we sell out? The Farm and Dairy itself took a few hits for encouraging bovine TB testing. In the May 29, 1925, issue, founder and Editor R.B. Thompson writes, “… some of our farmer friends have very much misjudged Farm and Dairy … we are charged with having ‘sold out’ to the ‘horse doctors’ and with having no real interest in the welfare of the dairy farmers.”
“On the face of it, such charges are ridiculous. We would be crazy to want to see the farmers of this section put out of business or driven into bankruptcy,” Thompson responds.
“Our own existence is very largely dependent on the welfare and prosperity of eastern Ohio agriculture.”
Calling the disease “a grave problem,” Thompson adds, “We cannot quite dismiss from our thought the positively known and demonstrated cases of innocent babies and invalids being infected with tuberculosis from diseased cows. And we know that deep down in his heart, no dairy farmer wants to feel that he or his herd might be the cause of suffering and death.”
Prophetic. Thompson’s next words, however, speak to today’s producers as well as their ancestors:
“We have been in business long enough to learn that we cannot live or act exactly as we would like to; that we cannot be absolutely independent and individualistic in carrying on a business.
“We must submit to many inspections, restrictions and regulations – more indeed than the average farmer ever experiences. Some of these are very annoying and irksome, but we have to submit, and perhaps in the end it is better that we do have to ‘grin and bear it.'”
Wise counsel. Fast forward 80 years to 2005. Thompson’s words could have been written for today’s Farm and Dairy.
We do not like intrusions, we are getting regulated to death and agricultural constraints are indeed “very annoying and irksome.” We fight national animal ID efforts, question homeland security restrictions and juggle more paperwork than feedbags.
Sill, we cannot deny that each farm is connected to a greater community. It is not just noble to work toward that greater good, it is imperative.
Heed the rest of R.B. Thompson’s 1925 message: “It is merely a part of the price we have to pay for living in a populous and complex civilization very different from that which once existed.”
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