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Slaves, Headless Pigs & Automation in Agriculture

February 7, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo often those in the agriculture community seek ways to connect with those “outside” of agriculture. Those who “just eat” who are concerned about their food and how it’s produced. We strive, as do many of our friends, to bridge that gap whether or not the suburban dweller ever buys from us or buys what we grow.

As a direct marketer there is absolute reminders we’re not going to please everyone. Some want to see what they’re buying – the meat not just the animals. Others are offended if meat is shown. They’re probably not going to be customers anyway, but certainly offending anyone is not our intention.

And just when we think we’re making strides comes a contact email such as I received last night. It was from up near home – the heart of Illinois farm country. It said : “I dont like the pictures of dead pigs on your <ad> page it sad and i dont want to see a pig without a head thank you!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I had to stop and think briefly because I’ve never put any headless pigs anywhere. The only pig pictures I’ve used were ones I took and the pigs were very much alive. I looked again, thinking someone might have hijacked the ad, as it’s been a while since I ran it. Oh no – there’s no headless pig. There’s a pig (walking), a few chicken pictures, a dressed rabbit (on a 1 gallon zipper bag for size reference! From top showing muscle/meat), a picture of a jar of rosemary and one of eggs.
Then I tuned in to the Huffington Post live criticizing the Dodge ad as not being real. Comments floored me – paraphrasing that there were no small or medium farms anymore, just large farms with automation, illegals and slaves. I hoped they were joking. They weren’t. This showed that be it southern California based residents or the middle of farm country the problem is the same…not a clue.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI find that sad. Those most dependent on the food system have no idea the reality of how it works, what is done to get it there and depends on (usually false) media to tell them. We’ve got to do better agvocates! But we can’t do it alone. Our urban and suburban – and rural! – neighbors must be willing to engage. That means talking and listening, as we strive to do, rather than telling us wrongly what we are!
Someone many moons ago told me there’s no shame in not knowing – choosing to remain ignorant is something else. When something concerns me that I don’t know about I make an effort to talk to someone who knows. I love the diversity of friends that results from that.
But it troubles me that there are those out there that think we have headless pigs in our bathroom sink. That there are those so removed they can’t stand the site of a whole dressed animal but are ok with it cut into pieces and wrapped up. That while agriculture as a whole is told we must be transparent and we must show everything, there are those who criticize when we do. No we can’t please everyone. But we must breach this chasm between farmers and those who eat.
I value things like Ellen and Grant’s One Hundred Meals project which attempts to do that from another perspective. Those in agriculture every day who put themselves out there for criticism to maybe reach an occasional person with the truth. I hope those in urban and suburban areas will reach out to find the truth from farmers, not from ABC, Huffington Post, Fox or other “need a headline story” options. After all, if we believed the media no sane person would ever go near a city! Violence, gangs, carjackings…we see what happens there!
We don’t have slaves folks. No illegals here. Automation – that’s a laugh here, but there is more in agriculture today than decades because of the need to do things and not people available to do it.  To be fair, there’s more automation in our lives than decades ago!
And honestly, there’s not headless pigs in ads – but if there was, that *is* transparency is it not? What people say they want! Our ads, like most stores, are catered to our potential customers, not critics. We feel and have heard that potential customers want to see what they can expect to get.
But we’re not in major media…so we don’t exist. Guess again!
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