This is my first blog. All the information below will also be on the “About” page for easy reference for those who may join this blog later, but to get things rolling, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to also use it as my first post. I welcome any comments, feedback, or questions from anyone (beef/ag side or average grocery store Joe). This is a learning process, and there’s no reason you can’t learn with me.
I grew up in cities from North Carolina all the way to Asia, and although I believe I’ve become very well-rounded and culturally sound, I had never really interacted with farm animals or farmers until I began college at Virginia Tech as an Animal & Poultry Sciences Major.
I thought I would become a vet for small animals. Little did I know what I would learn, or the love I’d find for the lifestyle, practices, people and animals involved in food production.
I have always been an animal lover. When I was 2, I asked my mom for my first pet. I wanted a “baby cow”. My mother was baffled. “Why not a kitten or a puppy, Valerie?” “Because Mama, they are all alone in the rain and no one takes care of them to bring them inside”. Since we moved a lot when I was little, I was never allowed to have real pets. So instead, I collected snails after it rained and named them all. I saved turtles from the middle of the road. I would send half of my 50¢/month allowance to the Save the Tiger Foundation. I have always been dead set on taking care of every animal I’ve ever come across, even the worms.
So you can imagine my family’s surprise when I came home one semester and announced that not only did I no longer wish to be a veterinarian, but I wanted to work with the animals that were raised to be killed; to be put on my plate. (At this point in time, I didn’t even eat pork products, because after seeing the movie Babe, I didn’t want to eat a piglet. EVER).
But I had come to realize something. Well, a lot of somethings. There was nothing ill-willed about raising animals for food. In fact, everyone I’ve met who is involved in raising livestock is completely dedicated to their animals. The “blood and guts” part of animal science- sickness, disease, slaughter: all of that was no surprise. I had been dissecting roadkill with long sticks for years trying to figure out how everything worked. While it was a big change to think of Bessie the Cow as my hamburger, that part was far less of an adjustment for my mind to wrap around. It is the people that really strike me. Even more than that, it’s the lifestyle. It is the realization that bringing up animals you know will become a meal for someone does not mean you are heartless, or even indifferent to the animal’s well-being. It is the knowledge that animal practices are done for scientific reason instead of cutting financial corners.
People seem to think that the more you find out about your food source, the more disgusted you will become. It seems that recently everything I hear on the news or from people in coffee shops is how horrible farmers are to their animals, or how unhappy and unhealthy farm animals are in their living conditions. That farmers and large cooperations are just pumping animals, milk products, and meat full of drugs and hormones to make a quick buck. Well, let me tell you something: There is no quick buck to be made in farming. These people are not outside every day to make money, or to poison your food. It is so much more than that.
In this blog, I will attempt to share an “outsider-going-insider” insight to the many fascinating aspects of raising our food in America today. It will be a compilation of known facts as well as my thoughts, pictures, observations, and questions. Agriculture and animal husbandry are not perfect practices. But there are so many things about it that even I was completely oblivious to until 3 years ago. I am not an expert. I come from good ol’ rich Suburbia, with our nice cars and manicured lawns. I have no financial incentive for changing people’s minds about how they view Agriculture. I just simply have fallen in love with it all. So if you don’t believe what you hear from someone who does make a living off this stuff, maybe you’ll take it from me. Because I’m leaving my cushy lifestyle and big-money-making career goals to fight my way into this industry. I’m looking for jobs on those dreaded feedlots. My animal-loving, fluffy-hearted self could not dream of a better life than raising cattle and being outside in some of the most beautiful landscapes on this Earth, providing a great food option for people worldwide.
So let’s look at food production in a different way. Not through a cowboy’s eyes, who couldn’t think of it any other way, but instead… “farm” the start.