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February 06, 2015 | Questions From Consumers
Accidental AgVocate
As a FarmHer and RanchHer, it always amazing to me how I'm constantly "falling" into an Agvocate role....even at the doctors office!
February 06, 2015 | Questions From Consumers
Accidental AgVocate
As a FarmHer and RanchHer, it always amazing to me how I'm constantly "falling" into an Agvocate role....even at the doctors office!

As a #farmher #ranchher, it always amazing to me how I'm constantly "falling" into an Agvocate role. I say "falling" because I usually feel like I'm falling head first into a trap when some one in the city asks me about hormones or antibiotics or GMOs. I instantly get defensive, my hackles go up and I think "now what are they trying to blame on me, man I wish I was in my tractor now". At the same time I am instantly guilty for getting defensive! I've decided this is a natural reaction for farmers and ranchers who are aggressive guardians of their animals and crops. We are keepers of the land, guardians of the animals and protectors of conservation. We are always on the defense from Mother Nature, ready to fight!If I am able to take down my instinctive defense quickly, change to the offensive position, I am able to have a good informative conversation with a consumer that has real concerns about their food. This is what happened to me today.

My daughter, Sydney, has epilepsy, and this day we were in a hospital room preparing for a routine EEG. An EEG requires a lot of prep by the technician to glue all the wires in the correct location on the patients head. So during this time the technician often wants to visit while he/she works.

EEG Technician: "Where do you live? What do you do? What crops do you have? Do you raise cattle? DO YOU USE HORMONES? WHEN DO YOU GIVE YOUR LIVESTOCK ANTIBIOTICS? WHAT DO YOU FEED THEM?"

I put the last three questions in all caps because from my experience, this is when the conversation starts feeling like an interrogation. I know the person doesn't mean it that way, but it does! Often the answers hang on the tip of my tongue and I think, "Seriously?! Is their opinion of me as a person going to change if I plant GMOs or give my sick animals antibiotics? Is what I tell them going to change what they believe from reading a vegan society article they read on a spoof website? What should I say?" But in the end, I give myself a quick mental pep talk and tell them factual information about my operation.

I want to share with you the questions that Sydney's EEG technician asked me, all while gluing wires to my daughters brain. I know, weird right?! But it was a good one!

Q: WHAT ABOUT HORMONES? My friend, who raises hormone free beef, says it is more expensive for him to NOT use hormones in his feedlot cattle. Is that true?

A: On our ranch is a cow calf operation. We sell the heifer calves privately as breeding stock and the steer calves are sold at auction as high quality, no hormones beef stock for feedlots to finish. We haven't used hormones or implants since the late 80's. Hormone implants are a very old technology that is presently and mainly just a tool for feedlot operations to help small numbers of stock that actually NEED hormones to help them finish out (Shout out to all my feedlot peeps: Am I right?). In conclusion, 99% of the ranchers in my area DO NOT USE HORMONE IMPLANTS because they are not feedlots. 

Q: Do you eat your own beef?

A: Of course! We raise some of the best beef in the world here in Nebraska. When we go to a restaurant we order fish because we know we will be disappointed with the quality. Most beef fed at restaurants are pale in comparison of flavor and marbling to the beef we have picked straight from our own herd to finish in our own corral. Our calves carcass rates are Choice or Prime when they are butchered. Select is what they usually sell at big retail chains and it is the lowest grade of beef. We know what we want to eat so we try to develop our herd to produce it!

Q: What about antibiotics in meat etc in dog food? We heard that imported dog food from China has too much antibiotics and is killing people's pets?

A: I have to say this was a new one for me. Honestly, I hadn't heard of this issue and had to google it later! When anyone asks me an agriculture related question with "a foreign country" in the same sentence, my response is always the same...BUY USA. Our great country has put in place standards and regulations in the food and agriculture industry to keep you, your children and your pets safe. Many foreign countries are still using animal drugs and pesticides in ways that the USA banned years ago! Many of the health and food related problems we have is from large retailers (I won't name names... ahem...WallyWorld). They purchase fruit and other foodstuffs from foreign countries, NOT USA FARMERS, to price cut. For Example: I only buy produce that has an American Flag on it (Target is a great place if you must buy from a super center). It is more expensive but is really worth a loved one getting sick? You can't expect to receive sympathy from a USA farmer or rancher, who only makes 12 cents on a dollar of food, when the product came from another country. You can't complain about the President if you didn't vote either, truth!

Q: What do you feed your cattle? My brother has some cattle that he feeds.

We grow and harvest our own forage crops; including: alfalfa, rye or BMR, cane and prairie hay. We mix that forage with distillers grain. Distillers grain is a byproduct of the local ethanol fuel plants, making it a cost effective and nutritional way to feed corn. 

Harvesting the alfalfa.

Cows love distillers grain! I've read several GMO, HSUS and PETA articles that say it's bad for the cows and the cows don't even like it. I'm calling them out now, total bull. I've seen cows literally RUN to eat the stuff. It is candy to them and good for them nutritionally when it's freezing with a wind chill of -25 out.

Baby it's cold outside...Thank the Lord for Tractors!

Then I asked the EEG Technician, "What does your brother feed? Is there an ethanol plant near here too?" With a look of shock and and a shrug she said, "I don't know! Uh...umm, I mean I assume he feeds corn?"

Farming and food, it's a two way street. Do you have a family member who farms or ranches? A brother, a sister, a grandpa....a great-uncle who lives in Timbuktu?! Pick up the phone and CALL THEM. They would love to hear from their family in the city, I mean they will be ecstatic to hear from you FOR REAL, and ask them these simple questions. Get off the internet and have an intimate conversation with a person who you trust and know to give you a FOOD FACT instead of a FOOD FEAR.

I have no idea what the EEG Technician's feelings were about my responses. She seemed very guarded and maybe opinionated. But she is in the medical field, has a good grasp on cause and effect, and she has a right to be concerned about her food as much as the next guy. She did understand why antibiotics are sometimes given to milking cows, not even human females enjoy mastitis...why would you let a living thing suffer that?! Lol!

I love farming and I love people, but I'm not a public speaker. I FEAR speaking to people I don't know! I start sweating and stuttering when a stranger tries to initiate a conversation with me; I hear my moms voice in the back of my head saying "And don't talk to any STRANGERS!" I do it to my kids too, lol! But seriously, I think we should start taking selfies with the people that we accidentally fall into agvocacy with and hashtag it with #farmfear #overcome .


P.S. The EEG went well and Sydney is doing great! Down to an average of one seizure a year, yay!

Sydney all prepped for her EEG, look at all those wires!

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