A video for the burrito chain Chipotle that received millions of views on YouTube got another bump when it aired on national television during the Grammy Awards.
The whimsical, animated video follows the journey of a family farmer who gradually grows his business into a gloomy industrial operation before ultimately returning to his earlier, and presumably better, ways.
Like most commercials, it was heavy on hyperbole. And like most cartoons, fairly simplistic. And so went the ensuing public debate. For some it was the latest unfair attack on their livelihood, for others an inspirational affirmation of alternative farming methods.While it’s hard to fault anyone’s desire to go to battle on these deeply personal issues, too often this food fight only leaves farmers frustrated and consumers unsettled.
As David White, executive director of the Ohio Livestock Coalition, recently wrote, “Illustrating that our values are like theirs, engaging them in constructive dialogue and being transparent about the practices we know are essential to farm animal care are essential first steps in helping consumers understand.”
The question now is where do we start.
As an organization that is often said to represent “the farmer,” Ohio Farm Bureau is frequently reminded that “the farmer” doesn’t exist.
When Buckeye Farm News printed an image of a dairy display that promoted “a comfortable, well-ventilated barn which protects (cows) from weather and disease,” one reader questioned if this meant to imply his pastured cows were left to suffer in the elements.So just as Ohio has about 75,000 farms, we find that Ohio has about 75,000 types of farmers.
Similarly, engaging in a debate about what type of farming can or can’t feed “the world,” requires us to consider the needs of more than 6 billion types of people.
Of course, within our individuality we see common ground. We would not exist except for the shared desire of our members to find fulfillment by spending their days working the land and caring for animals and ultimately feeding people.
It follows that what is most likely to “feed the world” is not a type of farming, but freedom for individuals to share ideas, to learn and to meet the needs of one another.
Long ago, Murray Lincoln, Ohio Farm Bureau’s first executive secretary, criticized efforts to restrict farm production in order to raise farm prices.
“You can never get prosperity by cutting down on everything. And you can’t solve the farm problem by taking away from somebody else,” he said.
To us, this quote speaks to more than just the price of commodities. And our aim has been to connect Ohioans so needs could be made clearer and opportunities revealed.
So we can say it’s a good thing that a burrito restaurant aspires to create new markets for farmers. And we like the opportunities that arise when people take a greater interest in their food.
But we see no need to advocate one person’s opportunity by marginalizing another.
The farmer’s role has always been one of expanding the capacity for life. Likewise, Ohio Farm Bureau will continue to expand the capacity for farmers and consumers to work and grow together.