A few holiday seasons ago, Aunt Sadie stopped by the local post office to buy a few stamps for her Christmas cards. Mrs. Sprinkle, the local postmistress, offered to help her with her once-a-year purchase. Aunt Sadie told her she needed about 40 stamps.
Mrs. Sprinkle asked her, “In what denominations do you want those Miss Sadie?”
Aunt Sadie was totally confused by the question and said, “My goodness things have changed here since last year. I didn’t know we had changed that much up in Washington. I guess I need about 20 Baptist, 20 Methodist and a couple non-denominational variety stamps if you think that will work.”
I know this is an old story, but it is a good example to use on how easy it is to confuse a lot of us with certain terminology just like Aunt Sadie and her stamps. Some of the terms being used by some of those in the news media about farming is starting to confuse some folks and is really irritating others like me. The term “factory farm” is being used by a lot of those who know very little about farming. To use the word factory in their explanation of what is happening out on our farms these days gives the wrong impression and is a totally incorrect way to discuss modern-day agriculture. However, when that term is used, those using it are usually trying to give the wrong impression and attempting to put agriculture in a negative image, which is a degrader to today’s modern agriculture.
Today, 98 percent of all U.S. farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations created for financial reasons to save farm families money, just like any business would do uptown. We all need to understand that farming is a business just like the shops in town or the manufacturer in the industrial parks. But, to say that our family farms are factories is totally an irresponsible way of explaining how a farmer does business. Farmers have their ups and downs the same as any business, with the main goal being to keep the books in the black and food on the family table just like you.
Farms must make a profit to survive, and with the continued movement of suburbia into the farming communities along with farm land costs going out of sight, while adding in energy costs and farm supply costs, it becomes more difficult each day for our family farms. They are consumers also and just like other consumers their costs are up as well. This country has run a long time on a cheap food policy and that time may be changing in some ways. Farmers are price takers and not price makers which means they have to maximize their farming operations and use modern day housing for their animals and new techniques that no longer resemble the farm pictured in “Charlotte’s Web.” The return on a bushel of corn or wheat to the farmer used to be affected pretty much by what was happening down the road, with the weather or out in the mid-west. Not today. We are in a world market and our problems are now placed on a worldwide scale. They compete with farmers around the world and not only is America’s food supply the world’s safest, but it’s also the most affordable thanks to modern-day agriculture in this country. Our increased standard of living certainly would be reduced without the safe, abundant and affordable domestic food supply produced by Tennessee and America’s farmers and ranchers.
During the week of February 21 ““ 27, Farm Bureau’s across the state will be celebrating National Food Check-Out Week. It is a week of celebrating the abundance and safety of food that we all enjoy here at very reasonable costs. Food Check-Out week began in the 1970s on the same principal as Tax Freedom Day that honors the last day of the year you have to work to gain enough total income to pay your taxes for the year. However, unlike Tax Freedom Day that is celebrated around April 5 in Tennessee, Food Check-Out is reached earlier and seems to hold its place of recognition around the same week of February every year. This only happens because of the dedicated farm families in our state.
During this special week this year, don’t confuse a Tennessee farm with an industrial factory. They are no where the same and your farmers deserve to be honored for providing the quality food we enjoy rather than being degraded by a term designed to destroy instead of define.