I will never forget one morning about five years ago when one of my guys caught my attention while we were working cattle. He was upset because someone was standing on top of their vehicle in the middle of an alfalfa field about a quarter of a mile east of our corrals.
It turned out to be a neighbor who was simply looking to take some pictures of cattle for a local publication, but I was very proud of my employee for his diligence in following our farm’s biosecurity plan. I worked very carefully with my veterinarian to write this plan which includes provisions for both animals and people who come onto our property.
Today, as part of my Progressive Beef protocols, I require all visitors to sign in upon arrival at the feed yard. I do this simply to protect both my employees and my animals. I have never turned anyone down that requested entrance to the farm, but I always ask that they seek permission before entering.
I do my best to make my feed yard transparent. I believe that every American has a right to know where their beef comes from. For this reason, I give tours, answer emails from readers, and blog extensively about my life raising cattle. I am proud of what I do and like to share it with those who are interested.
This morning, I became aware of an article that ran in the Huffington Post. The article reported that a professional photographer on contract with National Geographic magazine was arrested for trespassing when he took off and landed his paraglider on private property near a feed yard in Kansas. The photographer, George Steinmetz, was taking pictures of the feed yard for a series of stories on “food issues” that will run in the magazine next year.
While I was very grateful to be mentioned in the comment section of the article, I was also disheartened when I read and investigated the actual article and altercation. My greatest disappointment stemmed from the fact that neither Mr. Steinmetz nor National Geographic magazine contacted the feed yard to ask for a tour of the farm.
Rather than reaching out respectfully to the farmer and asking permission to visit the yard, Mr. Steinmetz trespassed onto private property and flew over the farm in a paraglider. In doing this, both he and National Geographic magazine gave up a tremendous opportunity for learning and conversation with the owner and employees of the feed yard. I cannot imagine how the view from 300 feet provided a better perspective of beef production than a one-on-one interaction with a cattle caregiver.
I am left to wonder if National Geographic really cares to truly understand the story of how beef is raised?
- Do they know that each one of those animals spent the majority of its’ life grazing on a grass pasture, and was moved to the feed yard for the last few months in order to decrease the environmental footprint of beef?
- Do they know that cattle are easily able to be comfortable and thrive living in a feed yard?
- Do they know that each person that works at the feed yard is both a trained and dedicated animal caregiver?
- Do they know that looking up to glimpse a paraglider directly above the yard was likely a scarey experience for those caregivers who worry about the well-being of their animals?
If the magazine truly wanted to understand food issues relative to beef farming wouldn’t they want to talk to a cattle farmer first hand? Surely they could find someone who spends their days caring for cattle with whom to discuss this important topic?
I think that it is exciting that National Geographic magazine is going to write a series of articles about “food issues”. However, I also think that a responsible media source would need to visit with farmers to gain an accurate understanding of the topic. I challenge Mr. Steinmetz and National Geographic to help us all to open up a truthful dialog on food production. A real understanding can only occur through conversation and sharing. This is truly impossible from 300 feet in the air…
A tour of my farm is waiting for you on the plains of Nebraska. I simply request that you offer me the courtesy of calling before you arrive!