Today started out with our normal routine…sort of. I spent my morning paying bills, taking kids to school, running feed ration reports for our hogs, and then packing a suitcase. By ten this morning I was on my way to St. Louis to catch a plane to Indianapolis to speak with farmers attending the Indiana Farm Bureau Spring Conference.
When I arrived at the airport, I checked my bag and headed to security with my laptop out and ready for the security scan. I was the fifth person in line and I took off my boots in preparation for my turn to go through security. When I reached the conveyor belt my belongings were ready to be put in bins without holding up the line. The man behind me must have been in a hurry because he stepped in front of me in line and mumbled under his breath, “hicks and their #*!@ boots.” I was surprised by his actions and I told him that just because I wore boots didn’t mean I was a ‘hick’ or that I couldn’t hear.
As I sat in the airport waiting for my flight, I thought about the stereotypes surrounding agriculture and how people view my world on the farm. I wondered if the man who called me a hick knew my job on our farm revolved around a computer. I am responsible for all the production records for our hogs, as well as the financial records for our farm. I am also responsible for the nutrition history and the diets of our hogs at our feed mill. I wondered if this man realized the feed we make for our hogs is done by a computer controlled system that depends on me and my family to operate it. I enter all the ingredients, diets and equipment adjustments. Our feed system is not simple, its a science! We don’t just wake up each morning and throw some table scraps on the ground for our hogs.
I have been told before that “anyone can throw some feed out for livestock, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that.” They were right, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist; it takes a nutritionist, a veterinarian and a dedicated and experienced farmer or rancher to feed and care for livestock. My family has been caring for livestock for five generations and they can tell if a hog or cow is sick by the animal’s behavior. We keep computer records for each sow on our farm so we can look back over the sow’s medical history and prevent problems from occurring. Thanks to these records we are able to head off problems before start.
Am I a ‘hick’ for knowing how to operate a 4 ton batcher that is controlled by an extensive computer program that can produce 24 ton of feed in 22 minutes using 10 different ingredients weighed out to a tenth of a pound? Does wearing cowboy boots make me a ‘hick’? In my eyes, no. But in the eyes of the man at the airport I was a hick.
This morning I woke up on my farm surrounded by my family and the familiar sounds of farm life. My family and our farm are my world, they are my motivation and I am proud to be from a farm. This man opened my eyes today. He perceived my boots as making me a hick and he didn’t see the reality of my life on the farm. He couldn’t see past my boots. This is why I blog, twitter and use Youtube. I want people like this man to see the reality of my farm. I want people to see the science and technology we use to produce healthy animals and safe food for my family and their family.
As a side note, as I boarded my plane and found my seat, guess who was sitting in my assigned seat? You guessed it, the man who called me a hick. I had to break the news to him that he was in my seat. I guess this hick girl from the farm knows how to read too! LOL!