There’s quite the farming community on Twitter. There’s a perception out there that farmers aren’t smart enough or connected enough or have time enough to Twitter. It turns out that a lot of Big Ag has guys out in big tractors and combines and such driving in big circles all the live long day. Many of them have iPhones or Blackberries with GPS and camera capabilities, and are kind of bored. They use their devices sort of like CB radios and chat. Lots of stuff about sports and the weather, but lots about jobs and the media. Jokes. Music. Conservative. Oh, and the bible and God. Always that.
There’s also a whole bunch of hippie granola liberal do-gooder organic sustainable farmers, all along the spectrum. Pious. Health nuts. Defensive. Strident. Funny.
There are homesteaders of both stripes, I’ve found. It’s probably split 50/50, just like everything else in this country.
It takes a while to figure out who is who, of course. If you look at the #agchat or #followfarmer, it’s all mixed up. #ProFood is sort of where I belong, but I find them on the strident obnoxious in your face, which I really can’t stand. They interrupt interesting conversations about actual farming issues — how to irrigate, how to deal with the weather, how to handle pests, or late blight — with political and emotional issues. Sometimes you just need to get the facts and opinions about late blight and don’t want to hear about anything else at the time. That’s just irritating. Shut up!
But some of the stuff from the big ag guys astounds me. OMG the lies. Keeping pigs indoors is done for the comfort and safety of the pigs? Seriously? Bullshit. It’s done for the convenience of the farmer. I know pigs. You can NOT tell me that they’d rather be confined like sardines in your barn instead of out in a wallow. Hell, mine won’t even go into the sheds I provide them when it’s below zero, if they have hay and a pigpile. Plus, they “rearrange” the wall on the sheds so the structures are barely stable, after a while.
Safety? We’ve had a horrible predator year this year, and have lost sheep and birds in horrifying numbers. We haven’t lost a single pig, period. It’s a stupid animal who goes into the pig pen. Three strands of electric is plenty porous for a fox or coyote to get in. Probably even a big raccoon. In the winter, they are behind “hog panels” that they sort of rearrange as their mood suits. Walk right in, Mr. Bear! A neighbor said that I don’t have pigs, I have small hippos. Hungry hippos. Cute, though.
Big Ag isn’t real fond of the coverage they are getting in the press right now. They HATE the Time story. The party line is to talk about how Time just slammed farmers while they are down. Don’t you love farmers? It’s right there next to baseball and apple pie to love farmers. Boo, Time.
They tell the story of “Livestock vs. Deadstock” to combat the coverage about the overuse of antibiotics. It’s an absolute sidestep. No one is advocating not using antibiotics to heal a sick animal. That’s not the point. It’s using antibiotics on animals who would be healthy if only they were eating grass instead of grain.
Dairy farmers are going out of business all across the country. It is devastating. I don’t know what the answer is to all of these questions. Clearly the way they were operating isn’t working. The regulations and subsidies and prices of milk and the import and exports and ack. I don’t understand it all. I don’t have time to try to understand it, to be honest.
It turns out that Twitter is sort of like cable tv. Well, what I hear about cable TV. My time to fart around on the internet and/or watch TV is pretty limited. Farming, to me, takes a lot of time, and I don’t have a Smart Phone or reliable wireless. I also have a pretty limited attention span. I kind of like to dip my toe in from time to time, but really, I’d rather go cuddle a sheep.
Or pester Elly, who may never have her calf. We are supposed to get rain from Danny tomorrow. If there are high winds, I think that’s the time she’ll freshen. Her official due date was the 24th, so she is now four days over due and not really showing many signs. She’s had a bit of mucus and her udders are filling up, but she’s still eating for two and quite active. She is loving all of the extra attention. If you can believe it, I haven’t quite figured out yet whether I will bottle feed the calf or not. I’m leaning toward letting her raise it, but she’s never done that before. Her calf was always bottle raised, and she led her life tethered in a stall.
3 thoughts on “Twitter feels like spying”
I read your post above. I would like to talk about “BIG” ag. It seems to me there is a disconnect. Granted it is easy to define a large farming operation as Big ag, but to me, painting all large producers with the same brush gets us nowhere. Size sometimes has little to do with Big ag. To make am assumption, which is sometime dangerous, I believe you are trying to define big ag as the companies that produce their “products” in any way they can to make a buck, regardless of animal welfare and the environment. Yes, there are companies out there that do that, but the farmers on Twitter don’t do that. You can farm 300 acres and be considered “big” ag if you are not ethical. I engage with many farmers daily on Twitter….you should also. I think you will find that they are trying to raise our food in the most efficient, sustainble way they can. Are we going to have differences on what is sustainable; certainly. I am glad about that. Differences are how we progress.
In regards to the TIME article. The reason the farmers on Twitter are upset about that is that their management practices are not included. @TroyHadrick, @RayLinDairy, and @FarmerHaley were not represented in the TIME piece. I will bet the farm (note the pun) that how they raise our food is so polar opposite from the portrayal in that piece that you wouldn’t even think they were farming!
Thank you for taking the huge risk and producing our food…..join us on Twitter and Facebook. It is good for the soul. I can be found on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/natejtaylor and on Facebook here http://www.facebook.com/nate.j.taylor.
I’m sure the three individuals you mention are as you say they are. That does not mean that the big CAFO operators are not out there as well, and they are certainly hopping mad. The American Enterprise Institute a few weeks ago ran an article by a grain farmer trashing Michael Pollan. There was some serious tapdancing around the truth.
The antibiotic issue (what I recall from the Time article) is the same way. In response to an attack on the specific practice of continually feeding antibiotics, we get an explanation that off-label uses are necessary. Yup, they are. Darn few drugs labeled for sheep, says the sheep farmer. Which does not in any way justify continual feeding, which pretty clearly breeds resistant pathogens, which neither we nor the animals need.
As growth boosters, they do not IMO justify the societal costs of resistant bugs. If continual antibiotics are needed just to prevent outrageous mortality, then I will assert that the growing conditions involved constitute animal cruelty.
There are plenty more than 3…just a quick set that by no means is indicative of the actual numbers. I don’t disagree at all in that CAFO’s are angry and handle themselves inappropriately. Should we fight for better actions on the part of these bad companies and practices? Absolutely. What we need to be careful of is the broad brush that is used. You and I may be able to discern fact from friction, tapdancing from direct response; however, I do not believe that the average TIME reader can. We cannot expect them to without education. Maybe a section in the article talking about the other 95% of farmers out there and how they raise our food would go a long way. As a matter of fact, that would be journalism. That is the issue, IMO
In the end, I feel the discussion really needs to take place upstream from the actual farming.