Top grades and relationships: You have to work at it in farming, too


Nobody likes to be told that they’ve done a bad job. Think of the situation-comedy or movie scene:

A junior high student has worked for weeks on a final science report or English paper, eagerly awaiting the grade.

When the teacher delivers it, she shakes her head in disappointment. The young one’s heart sinks, seeing a big red “C” — or worse — at the top of the paper.


As cattle producers, your feedback from the consumer isn’t as direct, but you’ve invested exponentially more time and put a whole lot more work into your final project: those steaks, roasts and hamburgers that somebody is going to eat.

Today, the social media scene is abuzz with ways to get closer to those who raise food, while the ag version is just as set on answering the call.


Gate-to-plate, connecting with consumers and telling your story are topics at almost every industry convention and meeting. Those efforts are really trying to show urbanites and even non-farm rural residents where their food comes from.

They’re noble and worthwhile, but as you consider this move to get closer to the consumer, you might revisit that desire to deliver something worthy of the top grade rather than disappointment.


Every expert in this arena will say you must be able to defend everything you do on your farm or ranch. You have to have a reason for doing what you do, and the way you do it. That might take looking at your business through the eyes of a critical, possibly uninformed, but highly interested observer.

How would you answer if a mother from your community point-blank asked you, “What are you doing to ensure that you raise the kind of beef I want for myself and my family?”

Genetic choices. It starts with your choice of genetics. You have to keep the basics, like calving ease, maternal function and weaning weight in mind, but at the beginning do you give so much as a passing thought to the end product?

If you do, then you’re well on your way to building a relationship with this target demographic.

Animal care would be another big one. Everybody in production agriculture thinks this goes without saying, but the inquisitive mom would want to know that everything you do is for the well-being of your animals.

External image

Reviewing those could help do more than just improve your external image. Many handling practices have been shown to improve health and beef quality, and ultimately profit.

Then there are all the other day-to-day details from weaning to vaccinations to feeding.


If you get involved in ranch tours, blogging or Ag in the Classroom, it doesn’t mean that consumers will be sourcing product directly from your ranch. You won’t have to answer directly for a tough steak or a dark cutter.

You will, however, become an ambassador for the industry, an industry that needs more of its members out there trying to build bridges.

The question becomes: How will you reassure them that beef producers are focused on their wants and needs? If you live it first, your cattle will make the grade.

Somewhere down the line consumers will fill out a steakhouse comment card and give your product an A+ with stars. It might have been medium-rare, but ah, you get the sweet feeling of a job well done.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.


  1. My grandparents were farmers. We moved to Ohio from Wisconsin, the dairy state. Having been a real estate broker in Wisconsin I was most familiar with the Clean Water Act and knew the land across from our home was protected under the CWA, as it was a wetland.

    When Park Farms first came to Marlboro, they were only going to put two sites on the strip mine. When the concerned citizens of Marlboro questioned what they were doing and, as Nimishillen Township managed to keep them out, they determined to put all six growout sites in Marlboro. As I questioned the volume of their operation, 1,300,000 per flock for six times a year, and with seven sites in the Marlington School district, I was paid back for my concerns. They hired a contractor to start excavating 500 feet west of my home. When this gentlemen realized what they were up to he quit and they got their good friend DePietro to excavate and fill the wetland in in the middle of the night.I called in the army corps of engineers, Jim Richmond came up from west virginia and inspected it after the majority of the wetland was filled. He noted to me that one of their houses is built right on the wetland and that Mr. Pastore was mitigating to create a new wetland. It was never done.

    Would average farmers do this, not the ones I have met. Now we have in the Marlington School district, seven sites raising 13,000,000,000 broilers a year for this corporate farmer. He has never lived at any of his farms, being very much west of them, a position I would like to be in. My neighbors sold out at huge losses as they could not live in the environment foisted on them by the poultry baron. Both had signed on to testify for me when I instituted a law suit against Park. As my husband as ill and afraid of them, I could not sue until he passed away and the property was in my name alone. Judge Brown saw the time line on the case as havng expired contending it started when Park came to town and built across from me.

    Add to this, the ability of the corporate farmer to be able to skirt all the regulations, and to get all his poultry buildings reappraised from $43,500. per building down to $4400. and $5500 per building and it is doubtful Marlington will ever get folks to pass another levy for the schools. This is a big loss in revenue to Marlington.

    I got applied for a tax revision for my property. After it was auctioned off in 2009, This property was appraised in 2007 for $260,000 but only would bring $105,000. sold to the brother of the Stark Ccunty Auditor, Robert Perez. This was less than what was paid for it in 1976 and it was totally renovated in 1991. It was put on the market in 1992 and at an open house, ten folks came, five asked about the Chicken factory. Not an auspicioua beginning for a house sale. No one folks wants to live 500 feet east of ten poultry buildings.

    The previous Deputy Ag Director did come to my home, noted that the sitng of this facility was so wrong, and tried to correct a terrible injustice. The new ag depputy director does not view this in the same.
    light. The permits were issued for Preston Road, a mile to the west which would have had a woods protecting the impact to the homes.The homes on the east side of Ravenna Ave. are zoned residential. It was deliberatly moved to show me the power of Park Farms, and indeed they are powerful.

    Are all farmers powerful, is Farm Bureau losing members over this issue? In my opinion, most faremrs are decent people who love the life they live on their farms and would never go out of their way to injure anyone. That is not the side of farming I have witnessed for 23 years. As I have maintained a log on this issue, carefully recording the the problems we have been forced to live with as Ohio continues down the industrial livestock road without creating a two tier system of animal industry which is found in the majority of states. I have never said these should not exist, just that where they exist ahould never harm the neighbors already living in the community.

    When thie site had an overwhelming fire which impacted my home with the burning chicken waste, chicken create toxic gasses sodium sulfide, ammonia, and methane, I noted this to the oepa, the ag dept and the usepa. The air quality of the usepa is looking into this for me, for this I had a four wheel drive vehicle come up my drive during the the six inch snowfall and go down my front lawn. This is typical of the behavior of the poultry operation. When their semi knocked down my fence in April of 2005, they denied it even though the semi was parked behind their buildings minus the cab, and the next day they were looking to hire a driver.

    That is what my life has been like since these folks moved in on me. I would like to get to a place to live near my daughter and grandchildren but unless my property is purchased, I will be unable to do that.

    Fairness and conscience should be the mantra of the livestock industry. We need to promote family farming and make sure it is funded for beginning farmers. We can do it, we just have to have the will to do it and we have to stop thinking industrial farming is the way to go. It is if the person owning it lives on it and lives in the same environment he has foisted on the neighbors, pays his fair share of taxes, and is taxed on his sales. That is not presently the case in Ohio. It needs to change.


We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.