Michigan Farm News

Damian Mason Blog

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Damian Mason | July 8, 2016

Welcome to Michigan Farm News's latest Web feature. We've searched high and low and found bloggers to feature who are both provocative and dedicated to supporting farmers.

We trust that their selected blog posts will encourage you to read all their blogs and gain a little insight into the issues of the day, all with a decidedly biased view in support of agriculture and the farmers who make it the most important profession in the world.   Damian Mason is an Agriculturalist, Speaker, and Stanford band hater. Find him at damianmason.com.

Damian Mason

 

No, you're not cooing and you're not making "goo-goo gah-gah" sounds. You're doing something much worse. You're calling young livestock "babies."

When I hear a person of Agriculture use human terms while referring to meat animals, it grates on me like two adolescent lovers spewing sappy gibberish at prom.

Young meat animals are not babies. They're calves, chicks, piglets, poults, and lambs. Only humans have babies. Goats come close; they have kids.

Centuries ago, people domesticated and developed livestock for the efficient production of protein. Soon after that, people developed specific terminology for livestock. Now would you please respect our accomplishment as the top species on the food chain and keep a separation between what we eat and what we are!

I know. It's easier to explain farm stuff to our suburban brethren using human terms. PETA and the Humane Society of the United States have discovered this too. These radical animal rights groups know that while 98% of the population eats meat, only a fraction of 1% raise those animals that end up on the dinner table.

So what do the animal activists do? They humanize livestock to create guilt among the non- farming populace.

Guilt is a powerful motivator in the land of plenty. Feeling bad for the starving kids in Africa is how mothers used to convince finicky kids to eat. Now animal activists want us to feel bad for stealing the "baby" cow's milk from the "mommy" cow. Guilty for eating those delicious barbecued wings harvested from "baby" chickens.

To anti-meat crusaders, there is no food chain. They believe animals are the same as us. You and I know this to be false. Animals are furry, possess smaller brains, and are generally delicious if cooked properly.

Humans are omnivorous by nature. We're programmed to eat - even crave - animal protein. That's why the vegetable-only crowd humanizes meat animals. You wouldn't eat your co-worker, Bob, so why would you eat Wilbur the pig?

Answer: because Wilbur the pig is delicious.

The process of assigning human traits to animals is called anthropomorphism. It happens a lot in entertainment, but it's unacceptable when we in the business of food production do it. Talking cows, clothed chickens, and smiling pigs have no place in food commercials.

It's not just a media perpetuated problem either. Last year I was touring a hog educational facility. The walls in the nursery were decorated with children's building blocks. Think the tourist from Suburbia doesn't subliminally equate "baby" pigs to his or her own children whose nursery is decorated with building blocks?

So what's a good Agriculturalist to do? Stop the baby talk and use animal-specific dialogue when talking about the business of food production.

When you're doing Ag outreach with school kids, don't call farm animals "brothers and sisters." People have brothers and sisters, animals have litter mates. Or twins. Or they share the same dam or sire - farm animals don't have mommies and daddies! Stop painting a fairy tale and start telling a real farm story. We produce animals for human consumption. We treat these animals humanely, but not humanly.

The goal of the Humane Society of the United States is a world without meat, milk, eggs, leather, or wool. PETA doesn't really want "ethical" treatment of farm animals, they want there to be NO farm animals.

Their mantra, "meat is murder," equates butchering animals to taking human life.
You think that's crazy. But when you use words like "brother, sister, mommy, daddy, and baby" to describe livestock, you're doing the same thing. That's why I'm asking you, for the good of Agriculture and the non-vegan 98,% stop the baby talk.

Columnists

Damian Mason | January 18, 2016

Welcome to Michigan Farm News's latest Web feature. We've searched high and low and found bloggers to feature who are both provocative and dedicated to supporting farmers.

We trust that their selected blog posts will encourage you to read all their blogs and gain a little insight into the issues of the day, all with a decidedly biased view in support of agriculture and the farmers who make it the most important profession in the world.   Damian Mason is an Agriculturalist, Speaker, and Stanford band hater. Find him at damianmason.com.

Damian Mason

Stanford University's band used halftime of this year's Rose Bowl to insult the Midwest and Agriculture.

Stanford's "routine" included music from the FarmersOnly.com commercials and a romantically dejected bumpkin tipping over a pretend black and white cow.

It was classless, not funny, and frankly, inaccurate. Iowa (Stanford's opponent) isn't even the Ag school, Iowa State is, and California (Stanford's home state) has more Holsteins than Iowa. I might also add, the skit was as original as a Hee Haw rerun.

As an Indiana farm boy, I detest the portrayal of anyone engaged in Agriculture as a backward rube.

Farmers I know manage millions of dollars of capital. Many have college degrees. They apply science and technology to their operations that would baffle the average suburbanite.

Nevertheless, the old, tired, archetype of the "Hick Farmer" persists. Why?

One reason is the math. Only 1% of our population farms and just 7% work in the business of food, fuel, and fiber. Our urban and suburban populace is so far removed from Agriculture, they accept media's portrayal of farmers and rural America.

A more troubling reason: We allow ourselves to be portrayed this way.

Here's how we can all polish Ag's image:

Stop Playing the Poor Farmer
There's a joke that used to be a staple at Ag functions. "Did you hear about the farmer who won a million dollars in the lottery?" The joke goes. "When they asked the farmer what he's gonna do, he said he'd keep farming 'til the million dollars runs out."

Laugh if you want, but I've never found it funny. Would you laugh if this were the CEO of General Electric joking about going broke? Agriculture is a business. Please stop playing the "poor dirt farmer" routine.

People DO Judge a Book by the Cover
I once had a role as a farmer in a seed commercial. (This is the sort of acting prowess that got me my Screen Actors Guild card!)

When I showed up for the shoot, the wardrobe people handed me tattered clothing to wear as I stood in a corn field. I asked the production crew if I was supposed to be a farmer for this commercial or a scarecrow. They laughed. I didn't, because I don't find derogatory images of farmers to be funny.

I understand. We work outside in Carhartt overalls. We handle livestock. We get dirty. But when the media dresses farmers as vagrants, our image takes a hit. Remember, there's a time to dress for chores and a time to dress for an interview.


We ALL Speak for Agriculture
Who decided people in the business of food, fuel, and fiber are supposed to talk like the cast from The Beverly Hillbillies?

Like it or not, people judge us by the words we use. In the era of social media, we all have the opportunity to portray ourselves and our industry positively. Proper grammar and effective communication garners respect from our consumers.

Be Proud, Be Professional, Pass It On!
Humor is a big part of my business. However, when it comes to Agriculture - the world's most important industry - our image is no joking matter.

Be proud of the work we do in producing America's bounty. Be professional in how you represent yourself. Above all, pass on a positive message for Agriculture.

 

 

Columnists

Damian Mason | September 24, 2015

Welcome to Michigan Farm News's latest Web feature. We've searched high and low and found bloggers to feature who are both provocative and dedicated to supporting farmers.

We trust that their selected blog posts will encourage you to read all their blogs and gain a little insight into the issues of the day, all with a decidedly biased view in support of agriculture and the farmers who make it the most important profession in the world.

Damian Mason"Man  despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments  owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains."

I don't know who said the above quote, but as a farm boy, I like it. Without soil (and precipitation) there is no us. While we can't control the rains, we can certainly manage our soil. That's why I'm a proponent of cover crops.

Cover crops, admittedly, face some battles. For generations we've equated clean fields to good farming. I'm not the only farm kid who experienced a weekly Sunday drive after church to "check the crops," which really meant: "snooping on the neighbors' fields."

Clean fields were a source of pride, and fall tillage conveys a farmer who is on top of his game and prepped for spring. Unfortunately, that pride in workmanship leaves soil exposed to the devastation of wind and water.

I'm no agronomist, but I did place 9th in the nation in FFA soil judging in 1987 (I still have the medal!). Soil judging taught me the value and fragility of topsoil. What townsfolk call "dirt" is the very foundation of our existence. As the keeper of the soil, it's our duty to manage it as the valuable asset it is.

When you read about the latest farm sale, realize this: the buyer is paying for soil and its productive potential. Given that most farmers hold the bulk of their net worth in land, isn't it smart to protect this resource?

A few benefits associated with cover cropping:

Erosion control: Sustainability might be a marketing buzz word, pushed by foodies and the Whole Foods crowd, but when it comes to soil, we're not sustainable without it. The biggest payoff and justification for cover crops, period, is erosion control.

Right behind erosion control, and closely related, is reduced soil compaction and improved soil tilth: Rye grass has a root system up to 5 feet deep and radishes have a 12-inch tap root. That's a whole lot of compaction layer busting done naturally, versus using the "V" Ripper.

Weed suppression and water management: Cover crops create a mulch layer which controls weeds better than bare soil. That mulch layer also retains top soil moisture. Deep rooted cover crops aid in percolation of winter moisture. Come August, subsoil moisture will be nurturing your thirsty crops.

Nutrient utilization: Radishes scavenge nutrients from your soil during the off-season, then make those vital nutrients available to your crop.

If 11 percent of input expenses are fertilizer, why not get more bang for your fertility buck? Positive results on nitrogen sequestration via cover crops might equate to reduced nitrogen application too.

Crop diversity: We all know the value of crop rotation. After 50 years of corn followed by soybeans, how much rotation have we really accomplished? Cover crops like clover introduce a third plant to the cycle. The benefit? Nitrogen fixation, improved soil biology and tilth, and possibly pest control.

Agriculture is an industry under attack by environmental activists and our own government. Need I point out the regulatory overreach happening with EPA and their "Waters of the U.S." initiative? How about the algae bloom in Lake Erie blamed on farm phosphates?

Cover crops demonstrate Ag's Environmental Stewardship. Farmers touch the earth every day. Let's show we're taking the lead to protect it.

Land is your biggest investment and the foundation of your farming operation. Investment advisors caution wealthy clients to never dip into the principal, and only live off the dividends and interest. So look at soil as your wealth and cover crops as a way of nurturing your principal. Eventually the dividend returns will increase!

 

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