It's been awhile since I have blogged. Recent string-of-events have compelled me to write down some thoughts that are floating around my head. Everyone can carry an opinion. Some keep their opinions to themselves while others push their opinions unto others.
Owning a farm isn't easy. Owning a farm, running a side-business isn't easy. We are fortunate to love what we do in life. The downside is people sharing their opinions with us which cause me to stop and think. (Which is always good. Thinking, that is.)
We were hit by a huge storm (tornado style) this summer. It ripped our barn roof clear off. The scene was straight out of a Hollywood movie. Twisted metal, 2 x 4's, screws, entwined around the house and garage on our farmyard. To battle an equally challenging year on the farm. Wet weather made cropping a frustrating job and not to mention our yard being a virtual mud-pit. Not fun on all accounts. What helped us through the toughest parts was our community of people. Our farming neighbours came immediately afterwards to help us clean-up. We were and will forever be grateful for that spirit. We couldn't have done it without them.
After the 'storm' settled and we were back in normal operation mode, I received a heart-breaking call from my farmer husband. He sounded so scared as he relayed what had just happened on our farm. Our silage pile was vandalized. Our main source of feed for our cows was damaged. Someone had taken a knife and cut our silage bag, exposing our feed to the elements. I fought back tears, thinking "not again, why do these things keep happening". I tried to cover up my own fear and despair because I wanted to stay strong for him. "It will be okay, we will get through this..."
My main plan of action was to cancel my second meeting of the morning and get home as fast as I could to be by his side. It's horrible to be away physically from your loved ones when they are suffering. After contacting the RCMP, I decided to take to social media to show pictures of the damage. I quickly did an estimate amount of the value in dollars of the feed. I wanted the public to know that whether this was random or a deliberate act, it was a serious crime.
When a hay silage pile is covered with plastic, it remains secure through the year as a source of feed for cows. Once the plastic is broken, the feed is susceptible to the outdoor conditions and will mould. You can't feed mouldy hay to your cows hence the severity of the situation. If we had to purchase this feed it would cost us up around $40,000. We had to pay for custom silage work that was $20,000.
The wet weather and storm had us behind schedule. It was key to get our hay off as quickly as we could. Custom work would allow us to get our hay crop off but it is an expensive option. Sometimes, as a farmer, you have to make those tough decisions. With the cost of the silage work, the replacement of two silage piles plus the input costs, I had estimated the replacement value would be up around $100,000. I wanted to post a dollar amount so public would know that property damage over $5,000 is a criminal offence, and you could face up to 2 years in prison for the crime, (if found guilty).
When your main source of feed for your whole farm/cows is damaged, we can't grow more feed during the winter months. Or can't really afford to take on more expense, even though, insurance will cover it. It's the fact that these random acts of vandalism seem to be handled with complacency. "Shrug, there is nothing we can do". That isn't the worst part. On social media after posting, I was ridiculed and made fun of. By other farmers. They openly mocked my dollar estimate of the feed. Implying it was too high. Basically, just get over it, not a big deal. One farmer did send a private message apologizing. "Didn't mean to sound like an ass..." Great, I didn't imply you were one. Why would they take on that tone, instead of offering help or sympathy? No, I suppose mocking is the best way. I expected better from farmers.
The next two 'opinions' have to do with a personal stance on our farming practices. One is our choice to plant non-GMO corn and the other is our take on how we care for our cows. We made the announcement about the non-GMO. Someone posted, "I have to unlike this, do your research about GMO". We did and that is why we are making the choice. Thanks for threatening to unlike us because we took a stand and shared our beliefs.
The second incident is one that has me fairly concerned. We thought we would make signage for our ice-cream to help us promote our product in the grocery stores. We are proud of the product we make and realize we have an unique opportunity with farm to fork (spoon) product. Our marketer quite innocently decided to label us 'cruelty free'. We wanted our customers feel secure that our cows are beloved and treated with the utmost kindness.
As with many farms, the cows are number one. If you are not from a farm, you may not realize how you treat cows will affect their whole being. They are sensitive animals and prefer a safe, quiet environment. We hosted Open Farm Day, here in Manitoba, in the past. We loved having people visit our farm and people were thrilled to see how quiet our herd is. They are quiet and content. Even when the storm ripped our roof off, our cows were secure in the barn, quietly chewing their cud. It was a beautiful sight amidst destruction and chaos. A scene that will be with me for my remaining days here on Earth.
Not long after our social media posting went out about our signage about what makes us different I received a phone call. It wasn't the call that was bothersome, it was the tone in which it was delivered. It was made clear to me that we could not use the term 'cruelty-free'. That we HAVE to stop using it asap. As it is implying that other farms do not practice this way. I was confused because I pay for our own marketing, not really sure why someone could have authority on how we chose to market ourselves. Again, it was a moment to add to all the other moments as of late, 'why is this happening...'
As they say everything happens for a reason. I am a firm believer in that. We are not here on Earth for long and one day, yes, we will expire. That is why I do not hold on to things of material value too tightly. It won't mean much after I die. That is just life. What is important to me is family, friends, our land and our farm.
We have been given an opportunity to own land which is only ours for a short time. We have farmed our whole married life. My husband gets up early and the first thing he does is feed his cows, then milk them, twice a day. Every day. 365 days a year. He is there for almost every single milking. Why? Because he loves what he does. Why did I start making a food product to sell? Because I wanted a better food on the market or to make the best ice cream. Something for all of Manitoba to be proud of. We farm the same. We want to make sure we are doing our best.
Some may not agree with us, that is okay. It really is. What isn't okay is bullying us and others just because you don't believe what we believe. Do not be afraid of change. Ask questions, be informed. Consumers have the right to know where their food is coming from. I want to know and I make the food.
I will not tolerate bullying or being ridiculed for my beliefs. With that being said, we are never implying other farms should go non-GMO or that they hurt their cows. I have been on many farms and I know first hand they treat their herds like gold. We chose to use terminology that wasn't perhaps the most thoughtful. Animal advocate groups have made farming very difficult. My first attack from a "Vegan" was extreme and disgraceful. This person made me out to be a 'raper and murderer'. I wish I was joking but unfortunately this is how some groups see us.
I do not know a lot as I am learning every day. I do know this, we make food. Food for the public to eat. Without farmers this world would be a dismal place. Without dairy there would be so much missing. I think our planet is big enough to accommodate all of our beliefs. I respect Vegans and Vegetarians. I don't eat meat every day but I do enjoy it.
I won't stop because someone is bullying me into quitting. We all have a responsibility to do our part. Claiming farms and cows are the biggest contributor to green-house gases is well, unfathomable to me. When our landfills are filled to the brim with plastic-contained food that our society deemed past expiration date and tossed. Food contained in plastic cannot break down or decompose. Our seas are filled with islands of plastic, our animals choke on plastic rings from pop cans. There are countless examples.
To attack farmers, is to bite the hand that feeds you. Farming is tough on a regular day, never mind when storms or vandalism hit. Or low commodity prices. Farming is still the only business that buys retail and sells wholesale. Let's all work together to protect our planet. With safe and smart conversations. Drop the bullying part. Bullying just means we have things to hide. And that means we have more work to do.
Be mindful. Be kind.