Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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.

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