Monday, May 16, 2011

Farmer Jed Syndrome

farmer jed

A recent article in the American Farm Bureau newspaper made me think about what I call the "Farmer Jed Syndrome."  The report was on a survey by the Kentucky Farm Bureau that revealed out of 551 shoppers at farmers markets 54% said that farming is worse than in the past and cited factory farms and the loss of the family farms as contributing factors. The Ky FB president, Mark Haney, went on to say that "people in general are unaware that family farms account for more than 90% of our farms."  

The Farmer Jed Syndrome is how I describe the disassociation of the consumer to their food.  I think many people have the idea that agriculture should look just like Farmer Jed in a Little People playset, no different than Dorothy's family farm in The Wizard of Oz.  

wizard of oz
Toto, we're not in the 1930's anymore

Just like the cell phone you carry today is much more sophisticated than the large bag type cell phone that was carried twenty years ago, farming technology has changed. Today through innovations in nutrition we can feed cattle a balanced ration through each stage of their growth and production.  Their health and milk production can be monitored with computers to better evaluate their status (a great video example of this in action on a dairy farm).  Studies from ag extension services have helped us better understand cattle handling techniques and housing.  Vaccines are now common place to keep our animals healthy.  Advances in genetics have helped eradicate unhealthy traits in cattle and improve on good ones.  The farmer of today produces twice as much as the previous generation and uses less land, water, and energy.  Dairy farming has changed a lot since Dorothy went to Oz.

I've always thought of our farm as a small family farm.  I'm often asked how many cows do we milk.  When I reply around 100 they usually reply with that's a lot.  I've never thought it was especially when I compare myself to some neighboring farmers who milk several hundred.  Another farmer with less than fifty head of cattle might think I'm big.  No matter what size a farm is there is one thing they all do the same and that is care for their animals.  If that farmer with thirty cows doesn't pay attention to them and treat them well he won't be farming long and that is no different for the big dairy.  Making sure the animals are healthy and happy will make them productive and that is the goal of every dairyman.

"The rule to be observed in this stable at all times, toward the cattle, young and old, is that of patience and kindness. .......Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated. The giving of milk is a function of Motherhood; rough treatment lessens the flow. That injures me as well as the cow. Always keep these ideas in mind in dealing with my cattle."--William Dempster Hoard

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