Saturday morning dawned bright, clear and cool as we loaded onto a bus in a Chicago suburb with nearly two dozen Chicago moms. The moms were part of Illinois Farm Families Field Moms program, chosen for their interest in food production. They've been on a couple tours already, to a grocery store and to the Gould family hog farm.
This tour, however, took us to Paul and Donna Jeschke's picture-perfect farm at Mazon, Ill. No kidding, the sky was blue and full of high, fluffy clouds, the farm was shined up and looking great. It really made me want to go home and do something about my dandelions. Another day, I suppose.
I have come to expect a handful of things from these tours. One, that I will meet some really fun, really thoughtful women. Two, there will be good, deep conversation. And three, we'll all find each other on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter later on and become actual friends.
This tour was no different and I have to share a story from Sara McGuire. Sarah lives in the city and I loved talking with her. We didn’t agree on everything and that's ok; her comments made me think about my position and I can only hope mine did the same for her. But I love this story.
Early in our conversation, she mentioned how her trip to the hog farm changed everything for her. Then she told of being stopped in the street by an activist who was trying to raise money for something that had to do with agricultural runoff.
"He's showing me these pictures and this was right after we visited the hog farm," she said, adding that he was referring to the pictures of "big ag."
Sara asked, "'Did you know 94% of farms are family owned?' And he said, ' I did not know that.'
She had a response. "Well, you should probably do some more research before you stop people in the street and tell them this stuff."
It was at that point that he began pointing at his flyer and suggesting she call them and tell them what she knows.
It gets better.
"They're really responsible about the fertilizer and the fertilizer is manure, not a chemical," Sara told me. "And it's injected in the ground. It's not like it's laying there and they're hoping the rain doesn't wash it off.
"It was interesting; I was like, 'NO! You're wrong!' Usually I would be the one signing the petition: 'OK, Greenpeace, yes!'"
As I have reflected on the day, I believe this might be the actual perfect scenario. Sara is a very thoughtful, educated young woman who took time from her life to come to the farm and learn about what we do and how it affects her family. She was not swayed by every argument; she's still uncomfortable with some aspects of genetic modification. I respect that. She's learned the facts and she's walked our fields (and barns).
She's taken our plight to heart, even to the point of defending us on the streets of Chicago. I'll take that. Every day. I'll take that.