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Conversations, Communication, Personal Attacks

September 26, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEver had someone attack you for reasons you don’t understand? Ever had someone misrepresent what you do? Ever try to correct it based on personal experience and get a patronizing “you just need educated” or “go back and learn”? Ever want to hurl insults, nasty names and full on defense on a personal attack?

I remember one famously, at least in ag circles, incident. I heard about it taking place at a US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance breakfast – an “activist” that came ‘unhinged’ and verbally attacked several people. A few people wisely (or unwisely, depending on point of view!) approached her online anyway. Listened to her. Stopped trying to convince her she was wrong and see why she thought what she thought. Some things she was misunderstanding. Some things she was right. Some things she’s just in a different place. And that’s ok. Since then I’ve learned much from Ellen and love her One Hundred Meals blog. Actually much common ground when the dust cleared! What a loss it would be to have left that wall of misunderstanding up.

I thought of that incident a lot yesterday. Those who read here, interact both in person and online know that I have stood for all food choices, even those who don’t match our own production. So what had me too furious to speak, typing then (fortunately) erasing without posting things that shouldn’t be said on social media? The same verbal sticks that poked Ellen.

“You just need to be educated.” Patronizing pats on the head to let the real farmers talk and don’t bother with details. It crossed all boundaries, borders and reason to be told that our things were all GMO…that everything we’ve been representing ourselves to be (no matter what others do) is a lie. I take that as a direct personal insult from someone who has never been here, has no idea what we do and tells defines publicly what I do and how wrong I am at how I tell people what we do.

Suffice to say the things crossing the comment box, then erased, were not welcoming, civil, balanced or rational. The very people who don’t want to be defined, attacked, misunderstood want to perpetuate it by throwing me under the bus publicly. Yep that’s pretty much personal. Maybe it wasn’t intended, or maybe it was, but it’s definitely personal.

And I thought of Ellen. I thought about her explanations and conversations and admittedly channeled and deleted a four letter word that rhymes with truckyou. More than once. Not my normal vernacular. But personal attacks bring out negative and when people are pushed they’ll respond negative.

So like those wise folks, sometimes it seems a reminder is to just SHUT UP. Listen. Stop filling in the blanks and listen.Not listening is not helping.

An example – comment of all yellow corn was GMO always has been. (Never had GMO corn on the farm in IL.)

Jan Really? So the heirloom Reid’s Dent corn – available 30 years before GMO – was GMO?


Brad Yes, it was modified somehow to create it. If you want to know the origin of corn go look up teosinte. Until then please think about your comments…


Jan See that’s it – we first qualify that GMO is not crossbreeding only biotechnology from 80s on. Then nope it is hybrids, crossbreeding etc. And wonder why people don’t understand agriculture. After so many drilled it wasn’t about 100, 150 years ago. Smashing. Carry on, keep talking down to people and treating others like they’re too stupid to exist. That’ll help ‘educate’.


Brad Jan, your sarcastic and crappy attitude is what makes people talk to you the way they do. If you come at it with a questioning attitude you’ll get along further. You don’t seem to want to know that your beliefs have been proven wrong. And that’s too bad…
Of course it wasn’t just one conversation. Aside from being informed even heirloom was GMO (which many have disputed), it’s a ‘sarcastic and crappy attitude’ to observe that patronizing people doesn’t help anyone listen. Battle lines big time. The belief that people have choices is wrong? Or the often clarified belief that GMOs are the same as hybrid and selective breeding?
Most consider when with their spouse or family that criticizing or down playing them in public is insulting. Disagree later but not publicly. Should we not afford the same respect to peers, even if doing something differently? Is it that big of an affront to a seed company that one small place chooses heirlooms? Does it connect then somehow there’s a message you big seed company are wrong?


Jan – Brad – really…so let’s shoot organics down. I pretty much know about what they use…and am not organic. I’m actually heirloom, mostly, and don’t think I have to put someone else down to do what I do. It’s unfortunate that with 300million + people to feed we can’t get it through our collective heads that not all are going to make the same choices and none of us are going to provide those choices alone. I don’t have to lie about what I do to sell it. Do you? Am I defending the majority right to buy what they want (including GMO being misrepresented) when I should instead sit back and say smugly ‘well at least they’re not picking on me so it’s ok?’ smh Wrong is wrong.


Brad Jan, the only people I’m discussing are the ones so blinded by emotion that they can’t see the science behind GMO crops and how they could help feed the world. AND you’re only worries about 300 million people??? Pretty narrow minded! There’s going to be ~10 billion people on the planet by 2050. I’m worried about feeding all of them. So don’t sit there so smug yourself…


Jan I stand corrected then. y’all don’t need help ’cause y’all have it figured out. You know the people here now personally, and everyone should just be thankful and not ask questions or have preferences. Except it doesn’t work that way. You, clearly, don’t know what I think or believe but that doesn’t matter right? I’m not feeding 10billion people or 300million people. And with all due respect (more than you give me) you aren’t either. Nothing smug here…keep fighting that uphill battle.


Brad Jan, I do care what you believe! I also care to show you how there is sound science behind GMO production and how it’s safe. That’s my point in this whole debate. No emotional bs or name calling. Just science and feeding people and cows.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood is more than just science. Dismissing even those that are in agreement even if practicing something different draws disagreement where it doesn’t need to be. If we can’t have a conversation among those in agriculture, on whatever level and whatever method of production, how do we communicate with those who outright disagree? I could, as I said above, keep quiet and kicked back, made popcorn and watch the show. I’m not GMO. I’m not “big ag”. The public mostly isn’t criticizing me. Many support, in talk, places like ours. Then I had to speak up for all choices, which I don’t regret, but now that’s “wrong” too? Hmmm. If someone chooses me it’s somehow a character flaw? They’re just too blind to see the magnificence before them?
Saying people have choices isn’t somehow doubting the GMO seed…it’s reflecting multiple people who said they don’t want it. So they can choose against it…why be offended that a minority of people don’t like what you do and choose something else? It’s also not saying people must choose GMO ingredients if they don’t want it.
It doesn’t really matter if the topic is GMO or antibiotics or any number of hot topics in agriculture and food – there are those who can accept choices and those who can’t. Converting with science does no more to communicate than communicating with straight emotion…and when opposites hit insults, name calling and put downs are not going to help find common ground. That person might never choose GMO – but they might come around to agree they aren’t evil.
Does it matter?
Do you want to keep farming? Do we look 50 years down the road and ignore now, or vice versa? Does that not take all of agriculture? There’s more of “them” (people outside agriculture) than “us”. There’s more ag folks than rabbit raisers. There’s more choices than yours or mine. Seems like we better figure a way to work together.
No matter the choices, before there aren’t choices.


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