This past year, my 7 year old daughter came home from first grade, and nonchalantly asked if we were bad people because we are farmers. Right away that triggered a whole lot of red flags in my mind. She asked if Daddy's put poison on the fields that kills the eagles because that's what they learned in school and so her class agreed that farmers were bad people. Well, at that point I was nothing less than furious, but at least able to figure out what she was talking about and where this was all coming from. In their reading book, there was a story by Rachel Carson called Silent Spring. Well, most people within agriculture know what this book is and know the story and meaning around this.
Rachel Carson was an conservationist that published the book Silent Spring in 1962. Silent spring informed and educated both consumers and farmers about the use of pesticides, specifically effects that DDt, a commonly used pesticide at this time, had on eagle and other bird populations. There are many aspects of Silent Spring and Rachel Carson that are good, and others not so much. We no longer use DDt and have learned a great lesson from the information that Ms. Carson brought to farmers and scientists attention. However, I find this to be awfully heavy material for my first grader to be reading and fully understanding. Needless to say, I was not happy with this reading selection, and took this up with the teacher and the school. No child should ever be lead to question whether their dad is a good person, especially by their teacher and classmates!! We also had to sit down and explain how farming has changed in the last 50 years with our daughter and inform her that farmers are not bad people. We told her that she needs to be proud to be a farmer, and explained all of the amazing things that farmers do. Through this all, I have found that this is a great lesson for many consumers to learn.
As a farmer and advocate for agriculture, I get asked often, "Why can't we just go back to the way our grandparents and great-grandparents farmed?" Well, Silent Spring is just one of many reasons why. Another great lesson learned in agriculture is the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Through science and education, farmers have become extremely smart people. We have learned how to manage our farms, and take care of the land, animals and the environment around us. This is called sustainability. Science and technology has allowed farmers to grow and abundance of safer, more nutritious food, on less land, using less resources than ever before, why would we ever want to go backwards in time? You sure wouldn't want to return to medieval medical practices, or have to type out your paperwork on a typewriter, or your only mode of transportation be a choice between your own two feet or a horse and buggy? Most consumers, including myself, would be completely lost without our cellphones. Why would it even be logical to want agricultural practices to do such a thing?
Sustainability is a very important part of farming, and it is not something that we, as farmers, take lightly. Which is exactly why I share my story about our farm everyday, and why so many other farmers are doing the same. We need to reach the students, teachers, and all consumers to let them know that we are using all of the technology and information that we have available to provide them with a safe, healthy and abundant food supply.