I know the "squeaky wheel gets the grease," but quite frankly in metaphoric terms this needs to stop. I am so tired of being told how we need to raise hogs and what kind corn we need to grow.
I can hear you saying, "But Jennifer, 'Isn't the customer always right?'" They are. But as a producer and a consumer I don't believe the customer is being heard over the squeaky wheel.
I know this goes on in all areas of agriculture, but I have chosen two examples in particular because they affect the bottom for Chris, my husband, and I: gestation crates and GMO corn.
We run a farrow-to-finish hog operation, not large by today's standards, but completely independent. In the past 20 years we have gone from housing all our sows outside on lots to the majority being housed in a modern confinement barn with gestation crates. Yes, we still have about 10% of our sow herd on outdoor lots. Do we wish they were all indoors in crates? You bet we do. I could rattle off a million reasons why I want them all in crates, just like someone opposed to crates could argue just as many reasons the other way.
Let me assure you our sows are healthy and happy in our gestation barn. Come spend the day with us! Right on our farm you can work with the sows inside and outside. And I bet no matter what day of the year you visit, if you come with an open mind, I guarantee you will leave seeing the benefits to the animals and humans. And if you walk away not agreeing with me, that is fine. At least you have walked a mile in my dirty boots with an open mind.
Now, let's talk corn. Want to know something? One hundred percent of our corn acres are non-GMO. Do we believe in GMO? You bet your sweet cheeks we do! We have raised GMO corn and we currently raise GMO soybeans. Why do we raise non-GMO then? Because there was a premium market it for it – but "was" is the key word. Not now. Where are those 'squeaky wheels' that got the grease? Come see us, we have bins full of non-GMO corn that is currently going for the same price as GMO.
"They" say consumers are afraid of GMO and are demanding their corn products made from non-GMO. Where are these demanding hoards of consumers?
Do I think the average American consumer cares about their food? Yes. I think they want a safe, abundant, readily available and economical supply at their local Wal-Mart. I also believe most Americans think American Farmers know how to do their job.
So who are "they" exactly? And are "they" speaking for the masses or for the few? I believe for the few – and those few are demanding change, using fear as a tool.
It is my firm belief and has been for years to promote what I love and not bash what I hate. I have my opinions and I respect that you have yours – all I ask is for mutual respect. I will be glad to talk about why I love gestation crates and I will gladly listen when someone explains why they are opposed to them. The concept is for mutual understanding.
I don't propose that I could ever change someone's mind on the subject who is dead-set on their beliefs. I respect that. My hope is to enlighten those sitting on the fence. Education is the tool to use, not fear.