Family farms of all sizes are the answer
By Trent Loos
I am writing this at 34,000 feet in the air, on my way home from yet another eye-opening Alltech Global event. This time it was the Global 500 Beef and Dairy Summit. This time, as one would expect, the thrust and push in terms of the science and research being conducted mostly involves the next frontier in producing more milk, meat and eggs with fewer feedstuffs.
Another huge push, shared by Alltech founder and President Pearse Lyons, was the branding not only of products but of people. The launch of a program called "Dairy Heroes" has the mission of bringing the family farms and cows right into the palm of everyone's hand via their smartphone.
This suggests taking more pictures, uploading more videos and correctly setting the public straight on who the farm families are around the world that are tending to the cows that are producing milk and beef.
In regard to the branding of people, I have to share with you an experience that happened to me in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport on my way to the Alltech event. As I walked into this establishment, I noticed two women sitting at the bar and the bartender seemed to point me out to them. As it turns out, they were discussing when the National Finals Rodeo about to take place and my appearance automatically gave them the impression that I would have information about it. Of course, I was happy to tell them that it was going to start this Friday.
Surprisingly, the young lady on my left then asked, "Are you Trent Loos?" When I admitted it, she proceeded to tell her new buddy that I spent some time following her around several years ago. That turns out to be somewhat true.
Kendra Kimbrisouska had worked for the Northern Chapter of the Sierra Club when they were attempting to get a ban on antibiotics used in animal agriculture. They hope to ban antibiotics as well as other forms of technology in modern food production.
As Kendra shared with her friend who I was, she also stated, "He promotes industrial agriculture." That immediately generated a question from Mary Kay, "You don't support family farms?"
As it turns out, Kendra is now the president of the Friends of the Family Farms organization based in Oregon. Quite honestly, if we in agriculture cannot even come to an agreement on what a "family farm," is, how will any of the non-farm consumers ever figure it out?
I do fully believe that farmers who tend to the land and livestock with respect and passion are the unsung heroes. I also believe that we need a serious national discussion about who farmers truly are. As hard as this is to hear or absorb, we are headed in direction of continued concentration.
We can only meet the global demands of food production by embracing and implementing the greatest degree of efficiency possible in farming. I don't believe you need to be big or corporate to do that. But regardless of your size, if you are not improving in the arena of producing more with less resources, you are not part of the solution.
Yes, farming heroes are being asked to do more both on and off the farm. It's not bad enough that we work dawn to dusk and beyond, now when we finally get done with supper we need to log in and do some more work for our cause. Posting a YouTube video about yourself maybe not be your idea of farm chores but if you don't do it, the public will be persuaded by someone else's video or blog.
Are you willing to let someone milk your cows without making sure they know how you want it done? Of course not! Then why let someone else carve your image as a food producer with the consuming public? Show them yourself how you care for your God-given natural resources, converting them thoughtfully into food, fuel and fiber in the hope that future generations may continue your legacy with the land.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.