This post is in response to a posting by a friend:
Factory Farm or Family Farm? You Decide.
I had an interesting weekend traveling and visiting family. A relative commented on a 400 cow dairy that we had visited in Oregon (family owned, but fully operated by employees), where they were appalled to see a dead calf in the alley (stillborn, hadn’t been cleaned up by hired help yet). They were shocked and afraid it would scare the kids, but the kids did not yet have a sense that anything was too wrong.
Think about it: Americans are so sterile and sensitive that they are unaware of how a farm works. Regardless of size or ownership, the general public cannot even conceive of where milk comes from (like, a real live cow and her udder!) or the fact that not every baby calf lives (life happens). Should the employee or owner have cleaned up the dead calf immediately? Yes. Was this a case for PETA involvement? No, just part of farming that sucks.
My opinion as a farmer and as a consumer is that the separation should not be between family and factory but between the words factory and farm. In my mind, I envision a farm being on one location, surrounded by hay fields or pastures or crops, in a manageable size for one family or a few families to work. A “factory” is what I saw when I drove by the housing for 3 million poultry layers for Walmart in Maryland or seeing pictures of carousels that milk cows and spit them out into a 20,000 cow herd on concrete. To me, those ARE factories, regardless of who owns them. Perhaps some of these large farms are run better than many small farms, their procedures may be cleaner and safer than what a small farm could provide. But, you also run a more substantial risk that if an outbreak occurred, the ramifications would be multiplied dramatically. The increase in size also leads to more mechanization, which reduces jobs for human beings.
Does anyone stop to think of why we have factory farming? Ironically, it is because they do not want to do the work (or stink, or have their time consumed by it). There is no way to win! Americans (98%, give or take) refuse to do the work of supplying their own food. Around half of those go one step further and rely on the government to supply their food needs.
The only real way to raise awareness is for people to head back to the farm: to visit or as a lifestyle. There is a satisfaction of being your own farmer (working and feeding your family, and maybe even other families) that cannot be replicated. The discord between consumers and farmers is severe, and the blame should be more on the consumer end than the farmer end. You want safe food? Then go grow it or ensure your farmer is doing a good job by visiting them, supporting them, and paying a fair market value for their goods.
PROUD TO FARM!