Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rancher or Farmer?

Are we ranchers?  Or are we farmers?

You would think I would know that after being involved in this lifestyle for the past 10 years.  However, I still catch myself using both terms to refer to what we do! 

Why don't we try some visualization (I'd tell you to close your eyes at this point but if you did, you couldn't read this amazing piece of blogging!) 

When you see a farmer, what do you picture?  A tractor driving through a field.  A combine harvesting corn.  A big red barn with two draft horses, a dairy cow, pig, and three chickens?

What about a rancher?  There's the iconic picture of the Marlboro Man.  On a horse, in the middle of the prairie with blue skies behind him and his cowboy hat pulled down low.  In the corral, branding cattle with a fire brand. 

One of my favorite pictures of Glen and Matthew.

Let's ask Mr. Webster...Rancher: (n.) one who owns or works a ranch.  Great.  So what's a ranch, (n.) a large farm for raising horses, beef cattle, or sheep. 

Check, check, no check. 

And farmer?  Farmer: (n.) a person who cultivates land or crops or raises animals (as livestock or fish)

Does hay count as cultivating land or crops?  Not in my me, cultivating land and crops means you are working in a way that you are planting seed and harvesting the resulting grain or fruit on a yearly basis.  In the last ten years, I can probably count on one hand the number of times the guys have plowed or drilled seed for new grasses. 

So technically, we are ranchers.  (Self identity crisis solved!)  And I love it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The First of Many

Right now Glen is gone on the first of many trips he will be taking in the next year.  Why is he gone? Well, early this month he was elected to serve as the American Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher's Committee Chair.  This amazing privilege and opportunity will be taking him across the country to meet with people to discuss issues that affect not only farmers and ranchers but also consumers. 

The AFBF YF&R committee is made up of leaders from the farming and ranching communities all across the nation.  They are the best of the best!  Last year we were selected to become a part of this exceptional group of people.  I can, with all honesty, say that it has been the best professional experience we've had to date.  Not only have we learned about aspects of the agricultural community we have not previously had experience with, but we've made friendships that will last our life time! 

For example, we have met apple and cherry growers from Michigan, vegetable growers from Virgina, and rice farmers from Mississippi.  I've found that having the chance to widen my horizons on the agricultural front has helped me understand and advocate many of the issues facing our industry, our culture, and our way of life today.  Time and time again, in all areas of my life, I have found that knowledge truly is power.  It's not just a cliche.  It's reality. 

So back to my previous question.  Why is Glen gone?  Because part of taking a leadership role in your industry, part of being an advocate for your lifestyle, your belief system, and your livelihood is talking to people.  Talking to people both within and outside of the ag industry.  Ignorance (for lack of a better word at the moment) breeds fear.  If we want to answer the questions consumers have about their food...if we want to quell the misconceptions, and reassure those buying, using, and eating the fruits of our labor then we need to be ready to have the discussions they want to have.  To answer the questions they may pose.  Because maybe they want us to learn about them as much as we want them to learn about us.