Monkey In the Middle…

As a kid, I played Monkey In the Middle with my older brother and his friends. They delighted in throwing the ball far above my head making the likelihood of me catching it microscopic in nature. Every once in a while, I outsmarted them and snagged the ball which earned me temporary bragging rights — but mostly it left me frustrated and unequipped for success.

The buzz word sustainability often takes me metaphorically back to that childhood game.  The word itself encompasses such a broad range of ideas and topics that it becomes difficult to tie it down into meaningful bullet points for action.  The politics surrounding the word also exacerbate the inherent complexities as large corporate businesses, NGO’s, and politicians bat the word back and forth in an effort to prove to Americans that they are engaged in the conversation.

Without a doubt — the sustainability of our country, our culture and our planet is vital to both our present and our future.  Effectively learning from the past, changing our actions in the present, and teaching our children how to protect for the future helps to ensure our livelihood.  There is no easy or simple answer to the challenge of creating something meaningful and sustainable.  It takes both a grass roots understanding of the challenges as well as dedication on the part of each individual to work toward positive action.


Sustainability is not a headline — it is not a marketing label — it is not piece of legislation — it does not appear magically at the end of a rainbow… 

Sustainability is a team effort — One that effects each and every one of us in multiple ways. 

I spent a large amount of time this winter covering the topics that I believe are vital to the sustainability of our future:

  • Identifying and reducing food waste
  • Getting balanced and meaningful science back into both the education and the research on nutrition
  • Realizing that good personal health comes from a diversely balanced diet teamed with appropriate levels of exercise
  • Understanding that responsibly growing food animals is a complex challenge that includes a dedication to environmental stewardship and quality animal welfare.

    They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious.  They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home...

    They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious. They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home because they trust me as a caregiver.

There is one component of sustainability that is often not voiced. 

It is trust. 

I am deeply saddened at the lack of trust and faith that Americans have in farmers.  From the individual American — to the large corporate grocery store– to the philosophical intellectual foodie — to the NGO — to the government — In the last twenty years, our country has collectively abandoned support for the people that grow food.  Instead of building appreciation and goodwill; a plentiful, diverse and safe food supply has rendered the American people unsatisfied, distrustful, and accusatory.

Sustainability is not possible without nourishment. 

Widespread nourishment disappears when the American Farmer decides to only feed his/her own family and leave the profession of agriculture behind.  There will come a point when those of us who work to feed the world will decide that it really just isn’t worth the pain when the only thing that you get in return is the ability to wear the monkey hat.


Do you value the farmer who feeds you? Please take the time to request that farmers be included in the sustainability discussion.

*If you missed the winter blog posts on this subject, some of them are chronicled according to topic below.

Food Waste:

A Student Of Life

Food Waste We All Play a Role 

Food Waste, Sustainability and the Journey of Continuous Improvement

The Love Food Friday spring series offering food waste elimination tips from Chef Chris Giegel.


Raising Teenage Daughters Amidst a Sea Of Dietary Confusion

Perhaps It’s Time To Stop Apologizing For Fat

Policy Does Not Equal Science

My Comment Letter To Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack Regarding the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

Fitness Foodies

Environmental and Animal Welfare:

When Your Husband Needs You For Your Manure

Good Timing

Answering Questions: Responding To a Recent Comment

Trust But Verify

How Do You Know When a Group Of Calves Are Acclimated?

Reviewing the Topic Of Antibiotics


Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Farming

8 responses to “Monkey In the Middle…

  1. Deb

    This story was in my inbox this morning as well as your blog. Coincidental but relevant.

    I’m concerned that we can’t seem to package our message… sustainability, food safety, sound science, nutrition, etc.…with an urgency that resonates with consumers. Almost daily we read and hear sound bytes and stories based on misinformation, condemning modern food production yet we have no strategic solutions to debunk or discredit at the same decibel level.

    • We share the same concerns, Deb. Thanks for passing along the article. It was an interesting (albeit disturbing) read.

      I am very uncomfortable with the current climate relative to sustainability. As much as I believe that being sustainable is critical, I do not think that the majority of Americans understand what it takes to grow food — add on to the fact that large corporations are not engaging farmers in the discussion, rather searching for answers/solutions without consulting the people who actually own the land and grow the products.

      We are headed down what can easily become an irrational journey that leaves many farmers exiting agriculture and many Americans wondering (for the first time) where to find food to feed their families. Perhaps I am overly dystopian in my thoughts, but that is what I see in my crystal ball.

      Thanks for sharing. I appreciate knowing that someone else shares my worries.


  2. Deb

    My fear, Anne, is that we are further down the irrational journey than anyone in our industry realizes. And, there are no easy answers. We can do our best to educate, explain the complexities, continue to conduct peer reviewed research and outreach. At the end of the day, if we fail to move the consumer intellectually and emotionally to understand REAL sustainability, you and I know the story ends in even greater global food insecurity, less affordable nutrition for a growing planet and, quite possibly, the majority of an entire generation of producers leaving production agriculture.

    • Very well said — our thoughts and worries are identical.

      It makes me feel a bit better that someone else shares my concerns. I don’t know how to fix this one, but it is something I often think about.

      Thank you for understanding and caring. Hopefully together we can find a way.


  3. Ann,
    You know my hubby and I share all your concerns and feel you really highlight the issues that “normal” American’s just don’t get, don’t want to get, or are too afraid listening to miss information to get.
    You also know we trust the farmers that grow our food and know the majority of farmers do a wonderful job growing the food we eat. If American’s don’t wake up and quit shutting down farmers they will wake up and all our food will be imported from other countries that don’t have the same care, rules, and regulations that we do. I think it is a scary path if American’s don’t stop judging and listening to bad information.
    Keep up the good fight 🙂

    • Thank you, Kim! I appreciate your trust and faith and always enjoy hearing from you. I worry about this one, a lot… I hope that we can make positive traction relative to education and trust. It is critical.

      I hope that you all are settling into the beginnings of summer. We are still mostly waiting for it to get warm in Nebraska. Our local youth swim team started practices this week and the kids think that it is cold! I love my volunteer coaching job so am excited to gear up a new season 🙂

      Take care,

      • I saw your post about the swim team starting. That is great I know you love that. I wish your team good luck for this year, but with you as their coach, no luck will be needed… it will all be skill and hard work 😉
        We are settling into summer and getting some projects done and more started. The baby chicks are enjoying being outside more in our new chicken tractor we built and I think get upset when we put them back inside at night. They will be outside full time soon enough 🙂

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