I admit it, I like doing chores. OK, there are mornings, like this morning, when I question the sanity of that statement. This morning was one of the coldest we have had in recent memory. My memory goes back about 15 minutes, but the weather man told me it was the coldest in several years and I believe him. It was bitter cold, and the wind was sharp, and it took all the strength I could muster to put my chore clothes on and face the biting air and I still got a sense of satisfaction from my work.
I guess we are weird that way in agriculture. Recently I saw a quote somewhere (probably Facebook, the place where all great quotes are found) that summed it up pretty good. It said, that farmers and ranchers work in harsh conditions for more than 80 hours a week to feed the very people who will turn around and complain about how they do their job. Kind of funny how that works.
I guess it is a sign of how good we have it here when we can go through the drive-through at the local fast food joint, order off a long menu and then go complain about how the food is grown. This phenomenon isn’t just occurring with agriculture; it is across the board. Just ask anyone involved in law enforcement. We only feed our critics, they have to protect them while being criticized and that makes them better people than me.
How did our society get to this place? If you don’t like the doctor’s diagnosis, get a second opinion. If your food isn’t exactly the way you want it, send it back and write a scathing opinion online. The guy who grades our road doesn’t know what he is doing, and the highway department never picks the right projects. We have become a nation of critics and complainers. How did we get to this point?
I have two guesses. First, we have fostered this notion that I am more important than anyone else. Our whole society is focused inward instead of worrying about the greater good. I am not saying we all need to be mindless minions, but we should take a step back every once in a while and ask ourselves if what we are complaining about really contributes to the betterment of society.
Second, the internet has allowed us to find any kind of information we are looking for. Good or bad, true or false, it doesn’t matter, and it is all a mouse click away. We don’t rely on professionally trained people to be the experts. Worse than that, the internet has allowed us to become our own experts and share that with the world in a relatively anonymous setting. You don’t have to prove anything on the internet, you can say whatever you want.
OK, so what I have just written is harsh, but I dare you to disagree with me. I know there are instances where being a skeptic or asking for a second opinion did some good and was the right thing to do.
However, my guess is that is a rare occurrence and most of the time the criticism, worry and cynicism is unwarranted. We have got to bring respect back into our society.
We need to respect the people who protect us. Yes, I am sure there are some bad apples out there, but I have never met one and I would guess that more than 99.9 percent are in law enforcement because they want to help people. We need to know that medicine is an inexact science but with modern technology and advancements the inexactness is being taken out of the equation. Likewise, we need to understand that our doctors are relying on their experience and training and that is much greater than ours.
We can only hope that the same thought process will happen in the world of agriculture, too. We need to form relationships with the people we feed and invite them out to our farms and ranches so they can see that we too are professionals who work every day, sometimes in bitter conditions, to make sure the food they get is safe and abundant.
I think what we are missing in this world are the relationships with the people around us. If we know the people we depend on, we will be a lot less likely to criticize them. We will understand that they have spent a lifetime developing their professional knowledge and we will trust their opinion. The anonymity of our society has caused us to lose the value of personal relationships, which makes it easier to be a critic and a harsh one at that.
As always, I don’t have much of an answer other than we can all start to try to make a difference in our own little corner of the world. We can reach out to our neighbors and friends and help them to understand what we do. Then maybe when they read that article on the Internet that isn’t quite right, they will reach out to their real friends for the truth. We can’t change society all at once but we can turn the tide one person at a time.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.