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Proud to be a farmer -- after cutting through the bullPosted Tuesday, February 17, 2009, at 1:44 PM
The farm wife's mouth gaped open as she read the paper the fourth grade teacher had given her.
"My father's unemployed and my mother works as a stripper," the paper read, clearly written in her son's hand writing.
"You know we both are farmers, we work on our family farm," she finally whispered to the teacher.
"Yes, I know," said the teacher, with an impish grin. "I'll just leave the situation in your hands."
After arriving home, the farm wife and her husband sat their 11-year-old down.
"Just why," the farmer asked, "did you write that I didn't have a job and your mother was a stripper?"
"Well, I just didn't want anyone to know you were farmers," he said.
"But, why, son, I thought you were proud of what your parents do?" the father asked.
"Well, I used to be, but now all the time on the news there are stories about farmers doing bad things."
"What stories, what bad things?"
"Well, a newspaper article we read the other day said because of ethanol, food prices are going up and people around the world are starving.
"We read that too, and our prices for corn and soybeans did go up last year and the grocery stores and others immediately raised food prices saying it was because of crop prices rising. And yes, some blamed ethanol. The truth is that this year our prices have gone down a lot, but grocery prices haven't gone down. And we still have ethanol."
"When food processors raise their prices they like to have someone to blame. No one wants to say, hey, the CEO wants a raise, so we're raising prices. Instead they blame it on the farmer. It happens a lot, because most people don't realize that farmers like your dad don't set their own prices."
"Well, another story said that farmers abused their animals."
"Do you think that? Do you think we abuse our animals?" the mother asked.
"Well, no, except sometimes dad yells at the cows when he's trying to give them a shot and they won't get in the chute."
"Besides that," muttered his father.
"Well, I know no matter what day it is, or what the weather, we feed them everyday. And I know you and mom get up at night and make sure they are taken care of when they are about to have calves. And I remember last winter, we spent all day outside with that one cow, who was calving and it was raining -- and snowing. I know, even with our show calves, we have to make sure they are fed everyday. Sometimes I don't want to, but Dad says that they are in our care, we have to give them our best."
"If we abused them, they wouldn't do as well, would they?"
"Well no, Mom. I guess you're right."
"OK, so what else did you hear on the news about farmers?" asked his mom.
"Well, I heard that farm animals are a big reason we have global warming."
"Yes, we heard that too. But that study came from a person in the U.N., who doesn't believe anyone should eat or use any products that come from farm animals, so it seemed a little biased," explained his father.
"Several other articles have said those figures included cutting down the rainforest to produce animals, and several other things not related to U.S. agriculture," said his mom.
"And later an EPA report came out saying all of agriculture was responsible for 6 percent of total greenhouse emissions, much lower than the U.N. report," said his dad.
"Right, and then I read that some of the forest fires we have put more emissions in the air while they are burning, than agriculture does in several years. And guess what helps fuel those fires ... overgrown grass. So if cows weren't out grazing grass down we'd have more fires, and more greenhouses emissions. Besides the fact that with fewer animals, meat would be more expensive."
"Well, okay, that makes sense, but what about the story that said some of the chemicals we spray on crops and our fertilizers end up down in Mexico and kill the fish in the ocean," said the boy.
"Oh the dead zone? " the mom asked.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Well the truth is son, think about your dad, would he put more than an ounce of fertilizer or chemicals on his crops they didn't use or need? After all, those inputs are expensive. You know how he is about wasting anything. In fact, new studies have shown that many of those fertilizers and chemicals are coming from lawns in the cities and suburbs. They run directly off the lawns and into the sewers, often undiluted."
"Plus, son, we use fewer chemicals than we ever have. Compared to the chemicals we used when I was a kid, these chemicals are very tame," added his father.
"Well, yeah, I guess that's right, but what about soil erosion, they said it was bad, they said farmers were letting soil wash away?"
"You know how your dad hates soil erosion, think how upset he gets when he finds a field with a ditch. The truth is I read in a farm magazine recently that soil erosion has been decreased 25 percent in the last 10 years, while farm production has increased," said his mom.
"And the don't forget the Missouri Corps of Engineers has been dumping dirt into the Missouri River, because they say the "Big Muddy" is no longer muddy enough to sustain the pallid sturgeon."
"Well how come nobody knows all this stuff?" asked the son.
"Part of the problem is that now very few people, only a million in the United States, actually farm anymore. So many people have never been to a farm and have no idea what we do."
"And as farmers, we have been so busy raising food, that we've forgotten to take the time to let people know what we do. A lot of people think milk comes from a grocery store. They have no idea that a farmer somewhere milked that cow and fed that cow."
"I've heard other stories, too, but I guess what you are saying is that we can't believe everything we read and hear," said the young son.
"Right, son. If you want to know about today's farmers, you are going to have to ask a farmer yourself."
"But here is the truth: In America we have the safest, most abundant food supply of any other country in the world. We pay just 10 percent of our take home pay on food, in Europe they pay over 30 percent," his dad explained.
"Okay, Dad. Next time I have to write a paper, I'll be proud to say we're farmers."
"Yes, son, just remember, don't believe everything you read and always, always be honest."
"By the way, why did you say I was a 'stripper?'" asked his mother.
Well, Johnny said he was watching a movie and there were these ladies on there and they were strippers and they made a lot of money ...
"Never, mind. Forget I asked."
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