General Assumptions

I am naturally going to click on any headline with the word billionaire and a picture of cattle. While performing my daily scan of the MSN.com homepage, I found such a headline and proceeded to follow the link. Please excuse more for a moment as I step onto my soapbox. Here is a link to the article: http://money.msn.com/investing/trophy-investments-of-billionaires

The article, “Trophy investments of billionaires,” detailed 12 not-so-normal investments of billionaires. One of those filthy rich tycoons profiled is Frank Stronach, owner of Magna International. The Austrian-Canadian has purchased more than 70,000 acres in Florida to start an “industrial-sized” cattle ranch where “where hormone-free, grass-fed cattle will have plenty of space to roam.”

It’s bad enough the article leaders readers to believe there is such thing as hormone-free beef. Sorry friends, can’t happen. Animals, like people, have naturally occurring hormones. Try as you might, you can’t have a cow without the hormones.

But it’s not the error that leaves me frustrated, it’s the over-generalization of  farmers and ranchers and the belief that big is bad.

The following are two excerpts from the article:

“The millennial generation has seen an increase in the number of college-educated farmers. You know the type: hipster, concerned with all things artisanal, local and organic. It’s an understandable idealistic reaction to the perceived excesses of the corporate world.”

AND

“It’s certainly a contradiction: Organic, grass-fed beef is typically associated with small, local farms, but Stronach is hoping to create the first industrial-sized, yet holistic, cattle farm.”

Now here’s my rub. My husband is a very intelligent, college-educated farmer that understands that bigger can be more efficient. We are not organic farmers but are successful in our conventional farming and caching practices. A combine costs the same if it’s cutting 200 acres of wheat or 2,000 acres of wheat. The payments are much easier to make if you have the revenue of 2,000 acres. And what is “industrial sized?” Farming has to be one of the only industries in this country where success and growth is shunned. Add too many acres and you are suddenly the big, bad farmer. It makes no difference if your methods and equipment hasn’t changed, the fact you are now farming more acres makes you dangerous. My husband and I have hopes and dreams of growing our farm. Growth will help ensure a future for our children and hopefully their children. More land means more opportunities and a more successful business. We maybe farmers but we are also business owners and growth is a good thing.

And finally, since when is a “holistic” approach reserved for small farms? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of holistic is : “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.”

Using that definition, we apply a holistic approach to our cattle. We provide a clean, safe and healthy environment that promotes the healthy growth of all our cattle. We work to improve the overall herd health, from the mother cow to the calve to the cattle at the feedlot. A holistic approach to animal health is nothing new, it’s a means of keeping our animals healthy, our beef safe and our farm more efficient.

Agriculture has done a terrific job of diversifying to meet consumer demand but consumers should not be so quick to judge and label our farms and practices. Organic farms come is all sizes and a holistic approach can be found on ranches with two or 200 animals. Each farm and farmer is unique and shouldn’t be judge by his or her size or approach. The one common denominator is that all farmers and archers are working to provide safe, healthy food for your next meal. Articles like this do nothing to promote the growth and success of the average farmer but pigeon hole farmers into one of two categories, small and friendly or big and bad. It’s not accurate and not fair.

I have now said my peace and will be stepping off my soap box. Thank you for following along.


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