Taking the “Subway” approach to farming

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

What is it about heading to your favorite restaurant with your family for a bite to eat? For some, it is the atmosphere, for others it is the food and for many it is the fact that their kitchen can stay spic and span for more than an hour or two. No matter what the reasoning, eating out is time that my family and I enjoy on occasion.

How much do you know about your favorite eatery? Do you ever think about what goes on behind the swinging doors that your waitress pops in and out of with full and empty trays?

I am not trying to put negative thoughts in your head about where you eat, although you might have already done thate yourself. It is a good thing that we trust other people enough to let them prepare food for us. It says a lot about our society, if you ask me.

Every once in a while you may have a not-so-enjoyable experience dining out. Maybe your fries were cold, your steak a bit overdone or the server went M.I.A. Who do you blame? Perhaps the management or the chef is called out. Do you ever think about blaming the farmer that produced the food? Of course not, but we’re getting closer to that happening.

The farmer is taking a lot of heat these days. From pigs in gestation stalls, to BSE (Mad Cow), to LFTB (Pink Slime), the farmers just can’t seem to get any positive news out there. Now their use of antibiotics is being questioned and likely to be changed dramatically in the near future.

What is the best way to combat all of the negative views of agriculture? It’s high time for Ag to tell its side of the story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will…and they are.

This requires farmers to change the way they perceive their own operations.

When I was a kid, society was a very “mind your own business” kind of world. That even pertained to how we ran the farm. We closed the doors to the milking parlor, not because of what was happening behind those doors, but because we just as soon kept to ourselves. Those days are long gone with the advent of social media and 24-hour news cycles.

I’m not suggesting that you make your farm an amusement park, open to all ages both day and night. Although you have to admit that having a “scrambler” and funnel cakes on the property at all times would have its perks.

What I mean is to open your doors to the kitchen. Think of it as the “Subway” (yes the sandwich shop) approach to farming. Putting everything that we do and take pride in “out there” for anyone to see (sneeze guard required).  This will not only give the consumer the peace of mind that what they are getting from the producer is the best possible product, it will also hold every producer accountable for how they produce their commodity and take it to market.

Agriculture knows how to do things right and that shows with the success of producing enough food for a rapidly growing world. Let’s put the same trust into the farmer that produces the food that we do into the person that prepares the food right before we chow down. That only seems logical, doesn’t it?

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