Skip to main content

Old versus New

Most days, I feel positive about being a part of the agricultural community.  Despite our differences in methods of production, the type(s) of crop or livestock produced, our marketing methods, etc., we seem to share the common bond of making our living from the land.  Some of us focus on marketing directly to consumers, while others produce for the commodity market.  Some of us are full-time farmers, while others farm part-time.  Regardless, we are generally willing to help one another and to stand together to advance the needs and perspectives of the farming community.

There are times, unfortunately, when this collegiality doesn't prevail.  Sometimes we argue about who can legitimately call themselves a farmer.  Some of the more traditional farmers and ranchers look at those of us who have small, diversified operations with disdain.  We're not "real" farmers apparently because we don't sell our crop on the commodity market.  We're not "real" ranchers because we don't raise beef cattle and sell our calves on the video auction.  Conversely, those of us who represent the "new" face of farming discount those who we see as tradition-bound or part of the industrial agriculture complex.  At the risk of grossly simplifying these differences, new farmers seem to be optimistic about the future, while traditional farmers seem to be pessimistic.  New farmers see a future in farming, while traditional farmers fear the end of agriculture.

Since I am squarely in the "new" farming camp, I often find the disparagement of my more traditional colleagues frustrating and insulting.  I'm sure they find my perspective challenging as well.  Ultimately, these disagreements aren't productive - we shouldn't be arguing about who is more legitimately a farmer.


Popular posts from this blog

Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

The paddock that Roger and I built this morning encloses about 5.75 acres of high quality forage. Since the ewes are on the verge of lambing, their forage demand is peaking. They're eating nearly twice as much grass now as they need in the late summer - after all, many of them eating for three (and p…

No Easy Answers Part 2

In mid October, some friends who graze their cattle in the mountains of western Lassen County (less than 200 miles from our home), became the first ranchers to have cattle “officially” killed by wolves in California in nearly a century. Wildlife officials confirmed that the Lassen pack killed a 600-pound heifer; four more heifers died (and were partially eaten by wolves), but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) couldn’t confirm the cause of death. While I learned about the depredations shortly after they happened through the rancher grapevine, news of my friends’ losses weren’t made public until the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint press release this week. The October 28 edition of the Sacramento Bee ran the story.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about wolves, you’ll probably know that I’ve frequently been frustrated with the Bee’s coverage. The paper has run guest opinions disguised as news articles, and appar…

Humbled and Excited

More than 20 years ago, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). After two internships, I'd been hired by my friend and mentor John Braly as the membership director in 1992. By 1996, I'd been promoted to assistant vice president - pretty heady stuff for a young guy who hadn't grown up in the industry. I started looking for new challenges. Dr. Jim Oltjen, who was (and is) the beef extension specialist at UC Davis (my undergraduate alma mater) suggested that I think about going to graduate school to prepare for a career in extension. I considered it, but the timing wasn't right.

Fast forward to 2013 (or so) - I'd been working as a part-time community education specialist in our local University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office for several years. The farm advisors in the office - Roger Ingram and Cindy Fake - suggested that I consider getting a master's degree and applying for a future farm advisor job. This time the id…