What is the picture you see when you're asked to visualize a farmer?
Does he have bib overalls on?
Does he have a family?
Is there a dog, some cattle, or chickens with him?
Is he surrounded by a barn and a loving family?
Are there any plants in the picture?
Is he even a "he?"
Interestingly enough, the image of the typical American farmer that "urbanites" see in their mind's eye is a rather humble looking, slightly goofy smiling, male farmer wearing a weird t-shirt and a nerdy hat. He looks nice enough, but it surprised me that he had on neither a collared shirt, nor a seed corn cap, as that's what I see (and wash) nearly every day.
The bottom line of this picture was that the man looked trustworthy.
I guess if you wear a nerdy hat and smile like a goof, you're a good guy, and trustworthy enough to produce your food.
The image of the American farmer is skewed, and even though my family doesn't wear goofy hats or t-shirts to work, the image itself of the small, quaint farmer, who seems to just produce, well, produce is what is concerning. We smile happily when the weather is cooperating, and love the land we work, but this picture of the cutesy farmer that could potentially either harvest turnips or turn around and pick a few peaches is unrealistic. This is no one's fault, but the American farmer, his- or herself.
Even though we have been told to tell our story, been empowered by training, are fueled by the fire of those who have been collecting data and studying this "farmer image" for years to go out and get that image of the nerdy looking, yet very nice (I must emphasize) farmer out of the American public's head, we don't know how to do this, except to preach to the choir. That, or come out with our guns blazing, ready to defend all the harmful press that the lovely mainstream media keeps cranking out.
But is that really what American urbanites are concerned about? And how do I "get my story out" without seeming preachy or boring? And, most importantly, how does some one like me, who is a newbie to this farming business sound intelligent during a potentially heated debate with some one contesting my family's livelihood?
Hopefully, I have a start with my writing. I'm hopeful that this this blog will continue to not only cause me to ask questions of my family and its connection with agriculture, but also bring this information to you, the reader in a way that you can understand and be entertained and informed simultaneously.
But, after my training yesterday, I'm not sure this is enough. Would standing on the street, near a farmer's market or grocery store, and shouting out about how much we love our cows and keep them vaccinated so that they can remain healthy? Should I send a picture to all urban newspapers of our family, the one in which Joe is neither wearing a dumb hat, nor am I wearing Mom Jeans (ALL OF THE FARM MOM PICTURES HAD ON THE MOM JEANS!! Grr...).
Well, something I took away from my training was to listen. To really hear the questions and concerns, asked by the moms in my circle of friends, or family members at holiday get togethers. I should truly be mindful of the advertising at the grocery store, and see if its promoting the farmer image I see across from me at the dinner table or the goofy dude in the picture.
I love to talk, so this listening thing will be hard.
However, my question to you, dear readers, is what is your picture of an American farmer? What do you see as important issues in regards to your food? How can I help you understand about where your food comes from and who is growing it? Do you want to understand the nuts and bolts of the American Farm Family, or are you more interested in whether or not the beef you get at the grocery store is safe for you to eat?
Let me know, and I'll continue to keep you posted on the goings on at this farmstead.
And, just for the record, something to change in your mind's eye immediately is the wearing of goofy hats and mom jeans!