When I moved to Cozad, Nebraska in the summer of 1997, I looked at the world through the lens of a young college educated urbanite. Living in a small town and being intricately involved in the raising of food was not in my repertoire. I came with a large number of ideas and very few applicable real world experiences.
My first years on the farm were marked by humility. I spent quality time with a scoop shovel, learned how to ride pens checking cattle and how to run the feed truck. I also spent time behind a desk with my eyes glued to the computer screen as the commodity markets scrolled across. My life revolved around learning to ask pertinent questions and observing carefully.
I had no idea that caring for food animals and growing beef was so complicated…
In 2014, there is no part of agriculture that is simple. I wear many hats to complete all of the tasks that fall under the job description of feed yard owner and manager. It took me a decade to become comfortable and confident in the role of boss lady, and after 17 years I am still learning something new every day.
Sometime during my tenure on the farm, an evolution began to occur as Americans became interested in where their food comes from. Not only did this interest manifest itself in the grocery store, but also in college classrooms all across the country. The discussion of the right way to grow food was taken up, and today continues to be debated by academics as they do their best to observe the modern food production system from 10,000 feet.
From philosophical novelists like Michael Pollan to investigative reporters like Eric Schlosser and Chris Leonard, many urban dwellers have tried to offer advice on what is wrong with the modern food production system. I believe that many of these critics are challenged by a lack of first-hand experience of being a farmer. I consider that first hand experience to be a critical link to properly understanding the complexities of modern agriculture and the growth of food in 2014.
I am the first to admit that there are many ways that food animal production can improve; however, I do not often find myself agreeing with the suggestions that come from these philosophical academics. I find their descriptions of rural America and farming to lack a full perspective and understanding. It seems as if they discover the story that fits their preconceived notions rather than the entire picture of how and why the modern day food production system operates as it does.
Chris Leonard has a new book that hits the bookshelves today called The Meat Racket. In it, Leonard paints a dismal picture of both my farm and the small town rural America that I love with all my heart. While a large part of the book discusses chicken production, a section of it encroaches into beef cattle farming and attempts to discredit the cattle feeding cooperative of which I am a proud member.
The next few Feed Yard Foodie posts will take a closer look at the Meat Racket , as I share a different perspective on rural America and the growth of food through the:
Lens of a farmer…