For as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about agriculture. Most of my friends growing up weren’t as fortunate as me to be raised on a farm — even when I didn’t realize just how fortunate I really was. It didn’t hit me in college either just how disconnected people really were from farming and agriculture. It didn’t hit me because I was an ag major. My circle of friends were all ag majors, so we lived contently in our own little ag campus world talking about livestock, crops and wildlife.
As a former meat inspector, I would always get the question, “Did you know that we are eating sick animals?” I always wanted to scream, “Who is the meat inspector here? Because I can tell you, you definitely are not eating sick animals.” But instead, I would explain the intense inspection process that I went through ib every single animal. Undoubtedly though, there were always non-believers.
Now in my current role, I work to educate communities, raise awareness about agriculture and address misconceptions and false information. There are no GMO wheat products, chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows, farmers are not torturing their animals, and yes, we do care about our water and land.
We as an industry have failed each other over the years keeping all of the amazing things we do silent — we felt that would protect us. But people care about where their food comes from — they have an interest in knowing the people who produce or raise their food. Today, it is more important than ever to tell our story because if we aren’t, someone else is. In many of my experiences the ones sharing our story for us, are the ones throwing around the words cruel, inhumane, unsafe and so on.
According to the American Farm Bureau, the average American is now at least three generations removed from the farm. This outreach is more important than ever because farm and ranch families make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. If you stop and think about it, how could the 98 percent understand something they don’t know anything about? This is ignorance. I don’t mean ignorant in a demeaning, insulting way that the term is often used. The definition of ignorance is lacking knowledge or awareness.
Let’s take some time to become less ignorant of each other, our farming and non-farming neighbors. We might not agree but at least we’ll understand. After all, nobody can know everything about cattle genetics, maple syrup production or growing the best flowers on the block. No matter how many pages or paragraphs your story might be, remember, nobody can tell your story better than you can.
Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau Organization Director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull County. Mandy can be reached at [email protected].