Shark Farmer: Is knowing you're right enough?

For as long as Rob Sharkey can remember, farmers have wanted to see what would happen when food isn’t readily available, or when the cars disappear in the city.

We were right!

This is what a lot of folks in agriculture are saying among the COVID-19 fallout. For as long as I can remember, farmers have wanted to see what would happen when food isn’t readily available, or when the cars disappear in the city. Then… then people would see how wrong they are about agriculture. 

All of a sudden our customers would care less about all those buzz words that have to be clearly labeled on their food before they dare take it off the grocery store shelves. Many farmers see consumers’ demands as silly and a result of being spoiled with a cheap, affordable food supply. Why should these city dwellers ever put demands on us?

They should be eternally grateful that they can eat away and only have to spend 10% of their disposable income. 

They tell us what not to spray on our crops, how to treat our livestock, and how to till our fields. They want us to spend more money feeding them when we aren’t making any ourselves. 

Oh, and let’s not forget that it’s farmers who are destroying the environment. We see a U.S. Representative from the Bronx saying cow flatulation is making it hard for people to breathe in New York City. We are poisoning their streams and killing the ecosystems, all while they pour fertilizer on their precious lawns. 

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But it’s being proven otherwise and agriculture needs to slam it in their face!

Mmmmmm, let’s think about this for a minute. 

Yes, the scare of food shortages has changed attitudes about the importance of being “certified organic.” The air around the cities is visibly clearer, even though cows continue to fart.

I recently interviewed Jill Burkhart, a cattle rancher from Alberta. She has raised antibiotic-free beef because that’s what the customer wanted. Like many direct sales beef producers, Jill quickly sold out once COVID-19 hit. What’s interesting is that she said the people buying her beef now were not asking questions about antibiotics. The customer’s goal was to get beef in their freezer… period.

I will argue that, although these things can be pointed out, the last thing agriculture should do is be smug. COVID-19 has proved a lot of points we have argued for years… it also has destroyed lives. Believe me, I can throw up a defensive wall as well as anyone, but this isn’t the time. 

Agriculture should be going out of our way to help anyone and everyone right now… and we are. Even though farmers/ranchers are economically stretched, we do what we do best. We go to work so that the rest of the world can eat. 

So next year when a news story breaks about how a tractor in Nebraska is increasing asthma in Atlanta, people will remember what happened when the cars stopped. Let’s make sure they don’t remember how smug agriculture was. 

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