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Proud to be a farmer -- after cutting through the bull

Posted 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."

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Marcia, Agriculture is fortunate to have you! Thank you for setting the record straight so often (and with humor).

-- Posted by Mizzou Grad on Thu, Feb 19, 2009, at 8:51 AM

Dear Mizzou Grad,

Thank you so much for your kind comments. I really appreciate it.

Dear NanaDot,

Thank you too for commenting, but as you have learned by now, I'm going to have to comment back!!

I'm not sure what 'substantially equivalant' PR you are talking about, but there are two things I must point out.

First in the European Union, farmers are petitioning to start growing GMO crops because not growing them is costing them and consumers in their country millions of dollars. They are now importing over 40 percent of their food from other countries and it costs 3 times what it does in the U.S. This is despite the fact that EU farmers receive government subsidies much greater than U.S. farmers.

GMO crops do not contain herbicide genes. What most plants contain are proteins that are toxic to certain bugs-not all.Some plants contain genes that make them resistant to certain herbicides. The crops that are eventually grown from the plant DO NOT contain those proteins or genes.

Because farmers use GMO crops, the only bugs killed are those targeted, as opposed to general insecticides which kill even beneficial bugs.

Twenty-five years ago when my husband and I started farming the chemicals, herbicides and insecticides were indeed rather toxic substances. My husband even tells stories about long ago chemicals that killed rabbits, squirrels etc. Those have long since been banned.

Now, thanks to GMO, the chemicals we use are very benign-if they weren't I would not let my 20-year-old do most of our spraying.

That being said, however, I do understand the need to question new technology and am glad people like you NanaDot do question large companies like Monsanto who produce these products. This is the American way, and I think it is important.

However,I do not believe we are playing Russian Roulette, in fact I think our crops have been evolving for hundreds of years. GMO does speed the process, and with an ever-growing and hungry population I think it is very timely.

In fact, I am certainly not afraid to feed my family GMO crops and don't think anyone else should be afraid. I also proudly feed our GMO corn to our cattle and eat the beef- it's very good!!



-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 12:16 PM


I am certainly not embarrassed to be a farmer.

As for subsidies, if you look further you will find out that U.S. farmers are subsidized at a much lower rate than farmers in Europe, however food there costs up to 3 times more than it does here. Subsidies are put in place to insure a safe and steady food supply for Americans and since you pay just 10 percent of your take home pay on food, it is actually a government program that works.

As for pure cane sugar being healthier, that is not true. Check the American Diabetes website - sugar is sugar, and neither are good for us in large of quantities.


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Mar 3, 2009, at 6:37 AM


I was stating a fact, not gloating. Also, the higher the food prices, the harder it would be on people living on the poverty line. So I certainly think we are fortunate to live in the United States.

Not that many scientists (or the American Diabetes Association) agree with the "we are tricked by HFCS" theory. However, you will see very plainly on the American Diabetes website it states under common myths that eating too much sugar DOES not cause diabetes. It states: "Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. However, being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes."

I don't think the American farmer is to blame for diabetes anymore than I think that the 3 cents of corn in your corn flakes is the reason they raised the cost from $2 a box to $2.19 a box.

You're right about corporate greed.

It's bad enough farmers have to constantly watch out for that, now we have to spend our time dispelling mistruths and internet myths.


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Mar 3, 2009, at 5:06 PM

Hello! Been awhile....but I see the things are still the same out your way there in Marshall, Missouri....

Can we talk?


Here's an ever so tiny snippet of the article associated with the link I've posted above. It's old news....but it's dang current news:

"WASHINGTON, March 25 - Senate Budget committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced yesterday he would reject President Obama's plan to cut billions in crop subsidy payments that flow mostly to large profitable farm operations and wealthy landowners.

"Instead, according to a March 24 report by Charles Abbott of Reuters news service, Conrad said he would slash several other programs, among them, two conservation programs that are critical to winning the fight against global warming.

"The conservation programs on Conrad's chopping block help farmers reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and also engage in practices that take carbon out of the air and store it in the soil. Moreover, these programs help farmers protect their land and the environment from the more frequent floods, droughts, and severe weather blamed on global warming."

That story that Gorrell put out is utter non-sense. I challenge her to produce the family and the writing, please. And, it exploits a child. I seriously doubt ANY child across the USA is going to write that their daddy is unemployed and that their mommy is a stripper to hide the fact they're farmers. Why does an 11 year old kid know what a stripper is anyway? Why is an 11 year old kid even discussing unemployment? Them's is adult topics and I rather suspect the only children who know about 'em are those that have really experienced it.

Nope....the "family farm" is a joke of a concept because there just aren't that many anymore....and I'm not referring to the number Gorrell has supplied....I'm referring to the AgriBusiness that runs the machine.

Now, last year we were discussing the welfare programs our fine federal government has set up for fat cat farmers, be they family farms or Agribusiness....a poll was taken....and the good people of Marshall, MO spoke up and overwhelming voted that farm subsidy payments amount to welfare for rich folks. I'll bet they still thinkg the same way, but are so busy working that $7.50 per hour job and so beat up after work that they don't have the energy to speak up when the lobbyists for the wealthy start to spin their stories of non-sense and take out their snake oil to sell.

Missouri ranks #10 in the entire USA for taking direct subsidy payments...all paid to wealthy "family farms" and here are the stats just for Saline County for the year 2007:


Now, here is a link for the actual PEOPLE who got these direct payments in Saline County for the year 2007:


Now, if you'll click on the name of the person shown.....you will be taken to a different web page which will expose how much that person has taken in welfare payments for the past 10 years. It's pretty informative!

It's so nice to be back and it's even nicer to see that things haven't changed in Marshall, Missouri; that the facts continue to be distorted; and that while the rich get richer....the poor get poorer.

Have a great day!

We're just talking about DIRECT payments here now....there are plenty of other ways to get this easy welfare money for these "family farms". Truth be told almost 70% of farmers do NOT GET ONE DIME FROM THE SUBSIDY PROGRAM!! These are the real family farms, too.

-- Posted by Jody on Tue, Apr 21, 2009, at 9:26 AM

Dear Jody,

Things are still the same in Kansas, too, apparently.

We had a very civilized conversation on subsidies just about a month ago on our speak out section. I am sorry you missed it.

As for the poll, I haven't been able to find the numbers yet, but you and I remember it very differently. The way I remember it the majority of the voters wanted to keep it the same, or tweak it some (the one I voted for btw), but not scrap it all together. I really thought that was why you stopped visiting us.

Of course, the family I mentioned is not a real family. It was just a story-telling tool I used and I think most readers understood that. This is not a news story. This blog entry (and my column) is titled SemiView and it is just that - my view and noone elses. As you see, many people disagree and that is okay with me. If it weren't I'd have to stop posting, because it isn't always easy to put my actual name on an opinion.

I certainly welcome your comments on the subject and look forward to other readers comments as well.


Marcia Gorrell

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Apr 21, 2009, at 12:52 PM

Classifying farm subsidies as "easy welfare money" made me laugh out loud.

I've had the pleasure to know and grow up with the Gorrell family and I can say with confidence that they are some of the hardest working people that I've ever met. Marcia even spent her birthday this year pulling an Anhydrous tank to help to her husband and sons on the family farm. In addition to that, she still finds time to write creative, enlightening and truthful articles for her local newspaper. The agricultural industry is lucky to have Marcia. She was even selected as an outstanding alumni of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri and got to serve as a panelist at the most recent farm forum. Keith is one of my dad's best friends but it seems like months go by that we don't see him as he spends numerous tedious hours in the tractor, working from sun up until after sun down on his family farm. And you can bet those boys were instilled with the same hard work ethic and passion for agriculture as they were growing up, too. Between planting and harvesting row crops and maintaining a herd of cattle, the boys still manage to excel scholastically and in their extra-curricular activities as well. The Gorrell family is the definition of hard work. Farm subsidies certainly are not "welfare payments." Farm subsidies are earned.

Anytime my family or another needed help, you better bet that the Gorrells were there ready and waiting. You'll look long and hard to find a another family of this caliber. If you truly know the Gorrells, then you also know that this is a "REAL" family farm.

Keep up the posting, Marcia. There are readers out here who appreciate what you do. :)

-- Posted by Farm_Girl_2010 on Tue, Apr 21, 2009, at 2:36 PM

Trust me.....subsidy payments are EASY and FREE.

And yes....Kansas does better than Missouri in accessing the money....I believe Kansas is #3 or #4 in the Nation! Don't make it right....either.

-- Posted by Jody on Tue, Apr 21, 2009, at 3:27 PM

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