My Unconventional Approach to #AgChat

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I am relatively new to this whole blogging / agvocating / “tell your story” side of agriculture, and, I must confess, this is much harder than I originally anticipated.  Given my love for all things farm-related and my passion for writing, I assumed this would be an easy process.  However, the more blogs that I read and the more that I sit down to write, the more I find myself struggling to say what is truly on my heart.

You see, as my name “NC Meat Mom” implies, I am a proud North Carolinian.  I come from state that is rich in agriculture and is vastly diverse in both our production and in our methods.  From the amazing seafood harvested on our coast to the beautiful Christmas trees grown in our mountains, agriculture is a leading industry across our state.  Even though my heritage is tobacco, my passion is North Carolina’s meat industry.  I partner with my husband to raise and direct market grassfed cattle, and I am the sole owner of a slaughter and processing facility.  Through these roles, I am blessed to work with meat producers from across the state and partner with them to provide local, quality food for the people of North Carolina.  But, most importantly, I am a mom.  Every day I strive to provide for the current needs of my children while also preserving the sustainability of our family farm for their future.   Embracing these roles individually is not a problem…it’s when I attempt to merge them together that things get a little tricky.

In case you can’t tell, I am not the typical image of a North Carolina farmer…and, quite honestly, I don’t embrace the same mindset as many of our industry leaders.  In a world where the color of your tractor is just as divisive as the crops you raise, I really struggle to find my place in this agchat community.  For example…

  • I consider myself a farmer, but I don’t own a tractor.
  • I consider myself a cattleman, but I am not a member of the Cattleman’s Association.
  • I have insurance, but it’s not through Farm Bureau.
  • I eat meat, but I also love knowing where it comes from.
  • I own a slaughterhouse, but I also consider HSUS a friend.
  • I value local food systems, but I also feed my family fast food.
  • I watched every episode of Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous”, and I even like their burritos.
  • I believe the greatest threat to the Earth’s food supply is not overpopulation but our industry’s internal fighting.

These may be simple statements but to the agricultural world many of these are blasphemy!  And, the even more shocking thing is that I understand their concerns.  I see the good that come from the Cattlemen’s Association and Farm Bureau, and I am very appreciative of all that they do for our industry…I just choose not to support them financially.   I understand the struggles of a local food system and how overwhelming that would be to implement worldwide…my family lives with that feeling daily.  I know the scary statistics about HSUS and their attacks on animal agriculture…but I choose to take the risk and build a relationship instead of brigade.  I had never heard of Chipotle until agriculture went on the defensive against their marking campaigns…proving that sometimes negative attention is just as effective as no attention at all.

I use to wonder how I ended up at this stage of my life, and I felt very unprepared for the task at hand.  However, I now understand that God has been slowly preparing me for these conversations…all of my previous roles were stepping stones for this very moment.   As a former teacher, I taught my students to “play nice” and not to judge because others may do things a little different.  As a former school counselor I learned the value of “I statements” when making an argument…focus more on your story than attacking someone else’s.  As a mom, I constantly told my children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” when refereeing a sibling spat.   As a Christian, I sang “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight” to remind me that every person and every opinion is valuable.  And, as the child of a farmer, I learned to embrace the adage “You can catch more flies with honey”.

I now find myself tasked with living the very words I have spoken, and, I must confess, it is harder than it seems.  While I don’t claim to have answers to all the problems facing our industry, I have grown to appreciate the unique perspective that I bring to the conversation.  Telling the story of agriculture means telling “my story”, and, even though it’s a little unconventional, so am I…and that’s okay.

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