Welcome to the real world. For many of you, the past Wood County Fairs have been full of long days in the barn, fun nights outside the camper, lessons learned and lessons taught. This year, however, you may find some things to be not so status quo.
As you very well know, the county fair is where many people get as close to the farm as they ever will. The week always provides a great opportunity to share your family’s story and your farm’s history and leave those that may wonder how their food is grown and raised with a sense of confidence that your farm is doing things to the best of its ability in terms of ethics and sustainability.
I read the recent article about activists that have petitioned to end a 50-year tradition, your annual Catch A Pig event, alleging that the act of catching a pig is animal cruelty.
A post by one of the groups making this effort said “Time is of the essence if we are to stop this cruel event that desensitizes children to the suffering of animals.”
As a farm kid, I saw animals suffer due to illness or other factors beyond human control. Unfortunately that is just part of the deal growing up on the farm. But make no mistake that seeing an animal suffer is never easy, let alone something you get used to seeing. Your generation learned about animal care from your parents, who learned from their parents. And although the methods and practices that are used to keep animals safe today are different than 50 years ago, the end goal has never changed.
Another ideal that has improved on the farm over generations is opening up barn doors to the general public. Your grandparents certainly didn’t feel that consumers didn’t trust them to provide the best food and fiber possible, but that perception has changed with your parent’s generation and what your generation does on the farm will continue to be questioned. You will need to have the answers.
How you handle what may be thrown at you this week and at the Catch A Pig event on Monday, Aug. 8 will be noticed. As you figure out how to maneuver through picket signs and off color catch phrases about your way of life, remember that what you say and do will not change the minds of those on the other side of the fence. Your actions and reactions will be noticed more by those that are on that fence about the topic at hand. Don’t mess that opportunity up.
Stay positive, believe in what you do and stand your ground.
As hard as the generation before you has worked to connect with consumers about the good things agriculture is all about, it will be infinitely more difficult for your generation. Those before you have insured that you have the rights, knowledge and skills to lead your industry — and traditions — forward for years to come.
Best of luck at this year’s fair. May your efforts in the ring and outside of it be something we can all be proud of.