I went to school in Los Angeles a few years back and I remember talking to a fellow student about my hometown. You see, I come from a city of about 100,000 people. To a true “small town” person, that’s huge. To a Southern Californian? That’s pretty small. Although I was (still am) the daughter of a high school principal and had been born and raised living in the city, my city was and still is, surrounded by farms and dairies. I went to a school where the majority of the population made their living through agriculture and even though I was a city girl, I was close enough to farmers to know where my food came from.
So as I was having a conversation with my fellow classmate, who was from the Los Angeles area, we got to talking about the dairy farming industry. My classmate asked me, “So, what does a dairy farm do?” The answer, in my simple, city girl terminology was, “They produce milk from cows.” His facial expression is still in my head, clear as day. His face kind of wrinkled up and his brows furrowed. You know, how confused faces look when they’re confused? Yes, that’s the face. And he (so very seriously) said to me, “I’ve always thought milk just came from the grocery store.” Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t remember how I responded, but it probably wasn’t good. I was baffled. Completely and utterly at a loss for words. Sometimes when I look back on that conversation, I still find myself shaking my head.
For those like me, who are either farmers themselves or near enough to the farming industry to know where their milk comes from, you might find yourselves angry. Or maybe you think to yourself, “How can people be so dumb?” I’ve thought those thoughts before. But let’s look at this for a moment, shall we?
According to the USDA, fewer than 2% of Americans farm for a living now. And only 17% of Americans live in rural areas. Do the math, because I don’t “do” math. But that’s a hefty percentage of Americans who likely have too much cement between their home and the farm nearest them to know about where their food supply is coming from.
I share this little story with you just in case you ever find yourself having a conversation with someone who is completely clueless about farming. (I hope you do at some point find yourself in that situation.) Maybe you can think back to this post and remember that not everyone is fortunate enough to live amongst corn fields and walnut orchards, or feedlots and strawberry fields. So then once you remember this post, maybe you’ll remember to keep your head from shaking in disgust, and calmly engage in a friendly conversation with an everyday, average consumer who is probably, very interested in where their food comes from and would love to talk to you about it.
Go ahead, spread the word about agriculture. Maybe grab a glass of milk while you’re at it.